REMOVE THE INVISIBLE CAP ON NEW SOCIAL EQUITY CANNABIS BUSINESSES IN DENVER

REMOVE THE INVISIBLE CAP ON NEW SOCIAL EQUITY CANNABIS BUSINESSES IN DENVER

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The Color of Cannabis started this petition to Denver City Council

In April of 2021, Denver City Council approved two Marijuana Ordinances that changed the scenario of marijuana licensing in the city. The Ordinances allow for Marijuana Hospitality Businesses and for new Marijuana Stores to open. Marijuana Hospitality was a model of cannabis business created by the State of Colorado in 2018, and so far only seven local jurisdictions have adopted this cannabis social consumption model. As for the new Store licenses, since 2014, Denver had a cap in place that did not allow for any new dispensaries, which changed in 2021.  


By making those amendments to the Municipal Code, Denver is allowing for potential changes in the city’s marijuana market. Beyond the allowance for new cannabis establishments, and more importantly, those two Ordinances mandated that new business owners for all license types must qualify as a social equity applicants in order to apply for those licenses.  Being a social equity applicant means that the applicant or the applicant’s immediate family must have been negatively impacted by the war on drugs. For the first time in history, marginalized communities will have a chance at economic justice through the Denver Cannabis industry. 


By mandating exclusivity to social equity entrepreneurs for the next few years, people of color will have a chance to operate cannabis businesses in Denver. New stores, grows, cannabis hospitality venues and cannabis tour buses are some examples of business models minority and impacted communities will be able to open.


Albeit the positive policy changes, unfortunately, due to economical and previously existing cannabis policy standards, social equity applicants are facing major obstacles that will close the door on their dreams before they even have a chance to start. One, the list of issues that social equity entrepreneurs are facing, the top one are the existing zoning and distance restrictions for marijuana businesses in the City of Denver. The current existing rules make it so that social equity applicants cannot open new stores, cultivation facilities or other marijuana businesses in the neighborhoods they were born and raised, due to existing separation requirements from previously existing businesses in their neighborhoods. Some of those requirements state that: 


Social Equity applicants cannot open new stores within 1000ft of an existing store.
Social Equity applicants cannot open new hospitality lounges within 1000ft of a daycare.
Social Equity applicants cannot open new hospitality lounges within 1000ft of another hospitality lounge
Social Equity applicants cannot open new stores or grows in neighborhoods of undue concentration (historically black and brown neighborhoods)

Originally, these restrictions were created to avoid over saturation of cannabis businesses in neighborhoods. Although the intent of the policy was meritted at that time, the insertion of the new social equity applicant element warrants a revision of this policy. 


Legacy industry and social equity applicants are currently operating in an imbalance. By being held to those same separation requirements, what is happening is a prohibition of new social equity businesses in the city. For the simple reason that social equity applicants cannot find locations to open their businesses and operate in whiting Denver boundaries, creating an invisible cap.


We must remember that social equity applicants are entering the marijuana market ten years later than the legacy marijuana industry and with a lack of resources and funding. Using the same distance restrictions for a non-social equity person and a social equity applicant is unfair and unjustifiable. Denver City Council should be prompted to remove the invisible cap and make social equity businesses in Denver a reality. New opportunities for entrepreneurship should be accessible and equitable to applicants from communities of color who wish to join the Denver marijuana market. 

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