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Aurora First Colorado City to Approve Recreational Weed Delivery

An online shopper browses Eaze, a marijuana delivery app.EXPAND
An online shopper browses Eaze, a marijuana delivery app.
Courtesy of Eaze
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Aurora became the first municipality in Colorado to approve recreational marijuana delivery during an Aurora City Council meeting on December 21; the service could begin as soon as January.

The Colorado Legislature passed a bill in 2019 legalizing medical and recreational marijuana delivery, but only allowed for medical marijuana in 2020, with recreational coming online in 2021. Because Aurora has no medical marijuana businesses, any kind of delivery was off the table until 2021 — but first, per state law, the municipality had to opt into allowing delivery. And Aurora City Council did that during a second reading of the ordinance that passed 7-3 at the December 21 meeting.

Under Aurora's new ordinance, only recreational delivery, not medical, would be permitted within Aurora, and any dispensary permitted for delivery in Colorado could deliver within the town. Deliveries would be allowed between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m., and would observe state purchasing limits of 1 ounce of flower, 8 grams of concentrate, or edibles containing 800 milligrams of THC. Deliveries could only take place at a residential address for customers at least 21 years of age, with proof of ID required during the delivery.

For the first three years, delivery licenses would be reserved for applicants who can prove that they or their families were negatively impacted by the War on Drugs, earn less than 50 percent of the state median income, or come from a community designated as a low-economic opportunity zone by the state Office of Economic Development and International Trade; these qualifications come from a definition approved by the legislature earlier this year.

Michael Diaz-Rivera, a Denver Public Schools teacher with the goal of founding a marijuana delivery business, says he would qualify for a social equity license after being convicted for marijuana possession at nineteen. He's currently enrolled in a marijuana business incubator course, and would like to launch his business in Aurora.

"[This] would benefit my startup delivery business and my community by giving others hopes that you can overcome oppressive policies, like the War on Drugs," he told the council. "Now that it has been legalized and others have been able to get a slice of the pie, I'd like to get mine, too."

There was pushback from several councilmembers over the length of the license exclusivity period for social equity applicants; some expressed worries about a potential lawsuit over discriminatory licensing practices. But Aurora City Attorney Daniel Money expressed confidence in the city's chances of winning any potential challenge, since the social equity definition isn't based on race or gender.

"So many people don't feel that's fair, don't feel that's equitable," Councilwoman Marsh Berzins said of the three-year exclusivity period, noting that she'd received emails and phone calls from business owners angry about the social equity provisions. The license exclusivity "is not competitive at all," she added.

But councilmembers Nicole Johnston and Alison Coombs disagreed, arguing that Aurora's past marijuana dispensary ownership requirements of $400,000 in financial backing and two years of experience in the marijuana industry weren't equitable to begin with.

"We have given that [licensing] advantage already, not to mention hundreds of years of advantages," Johnston said.

Aurora currently has 23 recreational dispensaries, and several Aurora dispensary owners said they opposed allowing inter-jurisdictional delivery that would let stores from outside the city deliver in Aurora. While Aurora is so far the only Colorado municipality to approve recreational delivery, a Denver advisory board recently published a set of proposed updated marijuana business ordinances that the city could follow to opt into recreational and medical marijuana delivery. If Denver does, that might allow dozens of dispensaries in the Mile High City to deliver to Aurora.

According to Rocky Road Aurora dispensary owner Tom Scudder, that could eventually lead to merging markets, and some Aurora dispensaries might not be able to compete if Denver stores muscle in. "I think it puts several businesses at risk here," he warned. "They're going to try to come into Aurora because they're having price competition in Denver."

A council committee will likely review the concept of inter-jurisdictional delivery before the ordinance's implementation, according to Coombs, and there's a chance that section and other language could be amended.

Marijuana delivery was one of several hot-topic issues heard by the council on December 21. The first reading of a resolution repealing a breed-specific ban on pit bulls was approved minutes before the marijuana delivery ordinance was passed. And during a study session earlier that evening, the council rejected local protections for undocumented immigrants.

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