Denver’s City Council is moving forward with three major changes to the city’s cannabis and marijuana regulations. Three bills were passed on Tuesday, March 16, by Denver’s Finance and Governance Committee. If the bills are approved by the City Council, both marijuana hospitality businesses and marijuana delivery will be allowed. The bills may also provide an additional $350,000 budget to the Department of Excise and Licenses to provide new marijuana business licenses.
One of the biggest changes suggested by the bill is that diverse applicants would be prioritized for new license applications for store, cultivation, and manufacturing businesses. This is key for people of color, especially Black communities, which have been disproportionately affected by the war on drugs. The proposal would allow Denver to expand opportunities for new businesses and become more inclusive in the marijuana industry, which is forecasted to grow to $80 billion by 2030.
Additionally, the three bills would also allow Denver residents to smoke cannabis indoors, bring their own cannabis into stores, and sell small amounts of cannabis on their own.
While marijuana is already legal in Colorado, regulations still apply. Currently, Denver storefronts that sell marijuana need to be licensed as a marijuana dispensary. But not all cannabis dispensaries sell recreational marijuana.
Medical cannabis is the most common product sold by dispensaries, referring to derivatives of the Cannabis Sativa plant. These derivatives relieve chronic symptoms in both kids and adults, which is another key difference between medical-grade and recreational marijuana. Selling recreational marijuana to anyone under the age of 21 in Colorado is a felony.
However, medical marijuana is available to children and adolescents as long as they have a certification from their doctor. About 93% of children have visited the doctor in the past year, and conditions that warrant a medical marijuana prescription include cancer and epilepsy. Unfortunately, while 91.5% of people have health insurance coverage, medical marijuana is still yet to be covered by health insurance companies.
According to policy analyst Molly Duplechian of the Department of Excise and Licenses, the proposals are some of the biggest changes to happen in the Colorado marijuana industry since 2014. Should the proposals pass City Council, licenses for marijuana delivery would be available only to social equity applicants until 2024.
Applications for licenses to stores, transporters, new hospitality establishments, and manufacturing would also be available only to social equity applicants until 2027. Social equity applicants include Colorado residents that have never had their marijuana license revoked. Applicants must also have either lived in an area disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs between 1980 and 2010, been arrested or have had an immediate family member arrested or convicted of a marijuana offense, or have an income not exceeding 50% of the Colorado’s median income.