On March 2, a Denver City Council committee is expected to begin considering new forms of marijuana businesses, including delivery and hospitality services, as well as changes to pot advertising and licensing structure, according to the Department of Excise and Licenses. In December, after working through the year with an advisory board, the department released two draft proposals; among other things, it suggested that the city opt into marijuana delivery, hospitality and social equity measures that would reserve business licenses for entrepreneurs from low-income communities or who were impacted by the War on Drugs.
The latest drafts retain that focus, but some provisions have changed. According to the new draft, delivery fees have been reduced from $1,000 to $500, cash tips will be allowed for delivery drivers, and advertising on mobile hospitality vehicles will be prohibited.
A stipulation that all new marijuana business licenses in Denver be reserved until 2027 for owners who qualify for a new social equity designation remains in Excise and Licenses' draft, but it's been updated to allow social- equity business owners to sell or transfer ownership to other social equity licensees.
The social equity definition, which was adopted by the Colorado Legislature at the end of the 2020 session, stipulates that a qualified social equity applicant must be a state resident who has been arrested for or convicted of a drug offense, was subject to civil asset forfeiture related to a drug investigation, or lived in a designated zone of low economic opportunity or high crime; anyone with a family member who has been subject to drug-related offenses would also be eligible.
Aurora, Colorado's first city to opt into recreational marijuana delivery, adopted a provision requiring that all licenses be reserved for social equity applicants through 2024, but Aurora's ordinance also grandfathers in the city's 23 existing dispensaries for delivery permits.
While the Denver proposal would include an exemption to social equity exclusivity for marijuana testing labs and current medical marijuana business owners who want to apply for a retail marijuana business license at the same location, there are rumblings of pushback against six years of license exclusivity for social equity applicants. The vast majority of the pot industry has been vocal in its support of social equity, but last month's feedback sessions about the new business rules, which are typically well-attended by industry members, were unusually quiet. So far, though, no marijuana trade group or business has come forward to make a public complaint.
They have one more chance: The Department of Excise and Licenses is holding another stakeholder feedback session on Wednesday, February 17, before submitting the final proposal to Denver City Council.