Denver no longer requires marijuana business applicants to prove they're lawful residents of the United States, and state regulators aren't far behind.
According to a July 5 announcement from the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses
, the proof-of-residency requirement instituted in 2006 by state lawmakers was eliminated by recent legislation. Senate Bill 21-199
removed proof of lawful residence as a requirement to receive public benefits not just from the state, but also local authorities and municipalities (it didn't affect requirements for federal aid). And Denver was quick to take advantage of that.
“Our immigrant community plays a critical role in our economy,” Excise and Licenses Executive Director Molly Duplechian said in a statement announcing the move. “We’re pleased to see our state lawmakers end the outdated anti-immigrant requirement that often limited an immigrant’s ability to pursue their dream of starting a business. An individual’s immigration status will no longer be a barrier to starting a business in the Mile High City.”
The new law "opens a new era of financial opportunities for immigrants," according to the Denver announcement, but SB 199's language doesn't exempt applicants in all industries. According to Excise and Licenses, state agencies may still require "specific types" of identification for business licenses, with marijuana, liquor and tobacco operations listed as examples.
Any marijuana business needs to be licensed at both the state and local levels in order to open in Colorado. Before receiving local approval, a business must be permitted by the state Marijuana Enforcement Division
(MED). While this is currently a roadblock for new potrepreneurs, the MED could follow Denver's lead before the year ends.
The current draft of the MED's proposed rule revisions has a red line through part of the state's marijuana code requiring that applicants "provide proof of lawful presence or citizenship, and Colorado residency, if required." According to the draft, this proposed change was made "in light of SB 21-199, which does not impose requirements on MED." However, the MED "sees the opportunity to honor the spirit of the bill in our rules here."
A rulemaking advisory board comprising industry representatives, state regulators and other legal marijuana stakeholders is meeting today, July 27, to discuss the language related to SB 199, as well as nearly 200 pages of other proposed changes to commercial pot rules. Most of the changes are mandated by recent state legislation and focus on issues such as wholesale distribution, record-keeping, laboratory testing, labeling and packaging.
A final draft of regulatory updates will be released on September 26, according to the MED.