Today, February 13, Colorado's cannabis capital announced that it will be forming an official Denver working group to gather feedback about new marijuana business licenses made possible by state laws just implemented this year. The two license categories, for delivery and social use hospitality, are now legal at the state level, but they require the local government to opt in before Colorado will consider issuing any licenses for the municipality.
Since Denver has far more dispensaries than any other city in the state, other Colorado municipalities look to the Mile High City for examples on how to handle evolving marijuana regulation issues. However, Denver marijuana regulators have been moving very, very slowly in approaching the new business options, giving priority to a social equity assessment of the city's current marijuana business licenses that have been issued since 2014. But as the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses continues surveying the demographics of the marijuana industry, it will begin considering delivery and social use...by first asking for public opinion.
"We have to go through a process to opt in or opt out, so taking public input is the first part of that," explains Excise and Licenses communications manager Eric Escudero. "We'll get that feedback, and then Excise and Licenses will form a recommendation for city council and the mayor, as far as if Denver should opt in or not opt in."
In 2017, Denver adopted a local ordinance allowing social marijuana use at qualified businesses, but so far, only one such business exists. While social consumption regulations in the new state law are more expansive than Denver's current rules, Denver City Council would have to opt in to those new regulations before the local ordinance could change.
After the working group meets, Excise and Licenses will issue a formal recommendation to city council as to whether Denver should opt in to the new licenses, Escudero says.
The working group "will consist of a diverse group of stakeholders including representatives from community, social justice, business, public health, safety, and youth-centered organizations and individuals," reads an announcement from the city. "The work group will be advisory in nature, with the primary goal being to review, discuss, and make recommendations on policy direction and possible marijuana licensing laws, rules, and regulations."
If Denver does adopt the state rules, city council can still tweak them for certain issues, such as whether smoking should be allowed indoors and which types of businesses can apply for a hospitality license. "If the recommendation is to opt in, there will be more feedback on what the Denver version is," Escudero adds.
Several small Colorado towns have beaten Denver to the punch on social consumption. Glendale, which is completely surrounded by Denver but an independent entity, has a Glendale City Council hearing on social use approval set for March 3, while Summit County towns Breckenridge and Dillon are considering social use as well. Silverthorne, another town in Summit County, has already begun the process of banning such businesses.
The delivery program created by the state currently only allows medical marijuana dispensaries to participate. However, recreational marijuana delivery will come online in 2021, and that's when industry representatives and regulators expect more towns to consider the option. Superior, a small town in Boulder County with no current dispensaries, is considering medical marijuana delivery.
Anyone interested in serving on Denver's delivery and hospitality work group must apply by 5 p.m. Friday, March 20. To learn more about the application process and the proposed meeting dates, check out the form below.