Marijuana delivery isn't legal in Denver, but a quick Google search might have you thinking otherwise.
Simply typing "Denver marijuana delivery" into the search engine will bring up websites for businesses with names like Weed on Wheels and the Chronic Courier. Yelp doesn't seem to discriminate between licensed and unlicensed, either; its listing for "Best Marijuana Delivery in Denver, CO" notes that something called Road-Runner's Marijuana Delivery is the top-ranked delivery service in a town that doesn't actually allow delivery service.
When you contact them, some of these companies will chat openly, offering to drop weed and commercial edibles off at your doorstep for a fee, and claiming that "all risk lies with the deliverer," according to a Chronic Courier dispatcher. Some say they only accept cryptocurrency. Still others didn't respond to multiple inquiries.
Even if you're not looking for a weed delivery service, it might find you. While legal marijuana brands are strictly banned from advertising or sponsoring posts on Facebook, illegal operations seem to have better luck.
For the last several days, a sponsored advertising post has been popping up in my Facebook feed from a business calling itself My GreenSolution, a self-described "nationwide mail order dispensary." As if that weren't sketchy enough, the post also includes a photo of marijuana concentrate from Viola, a very legal marijuana extraction company based in Denver, as well as a bag from the Green Solution, Colorado's largest dispensary chain.
A TGS representative denies any connection between the Green Solution and My GreenSolution, and confirms that TGS's attorneys are currently pursuing legal action against the other company. Viola has not yet responded to a request for comment, while Facebook says it is "investigating" the case.
Our attempts to chat with My GreenSolution about its use of Viola and TGS products, and claims regarding marijuana shipping insurance and 10 percent discounts for customers who refer friends — also known as aiding a federal drug crime — have been unsuccessful.
Dealing with any such businesses is risky, according to Denver Police Department Lieutenant Andrew Howard, who leads the DPD's vice and drug control unit. The risks that a would-be customer faces range from being robbed to getting scammed to breaking the law.
"We had a lot of robberies over delivery in 2014 and 2015 on Craigslist," Howard remembers. "A lot of these services are actually fraudulent money scams, very similar to the phone calls saying there's a $500,000 check waiting for you from your aunt."
Although Craigslist no longer publishes such illegal listings, other websites have picked up the slack. "Social media and online marketplaces have always been a place for narcotic sales," Howard adds.
Customers on the wrong end of a deal will even call the DPD to report a scam or robbery, he notes, unaware that they've just admitted to committing a crime themselves.
Ordering cannabis delivery in Colorado won't be a crime forever, though. In 2019, the Colorado Legislature passed a law allowing medical marijuana delivery in 2020 and recreational delivery by 2021 — but only in jurisdictions that have opted to allow delivery. So far, Boulder and Superior are the only towns in Colorado to approve medical marijuana delivery, which gives black-market operators more time to operate in the shadows of search engines and social media.
Confusion about the status of delivery in this state has helped fuel illegal delivery operations, according to Denver Auditor Timothy O'Brien. In his current report on Denver's tax revenue audit, O'Brien highlights the presence of several unlicensed delivery services in Denver and the implications of lost tax revenue.
Even if Denver approves legal marijuana delivery, unlicensed services could continue to take advantage of that confusion, he says. "Once the practice is legal, there could be even more businesses doing it and even more businesses expected to get licenses and pay taxes," O'Brien told Westword. "Denver then needs to be sure that these stores are properly licensed and the taxes are collected."
Marijuana industry representatives calling on state and local officials to fast-track marijuana delivery in their respective communities have been citing a reason other than taxes: limiting human interaction during the COVID-19 pandemic. So far, though, neither argument has compelled Denver to pick up its pace; according to the Department of Excise and Licenses' Office of Marijuana Policy, the city probably won't consider final delivery rules until the end of the year.
The department recently announced that a 24-person working group had been established to look at licensing and social-equity issues in the city's pot industry, with virtual meetings set to take place in May and June. But that's just the beginning of the recommendation process; public hearings and further rulemaking would all be required if delivery were approved.
"We hope to complete our work involving marijuana delivery by either quarter four this year or the beginning of next year. As with all licenses, our goal is to identify the will of the public [and] safety concerns, and get this right more than fast," says Excise and Licenses communications director Eric Escudero, who adds that there will be a "keen focus" on the potential of marijuana delivery and other future pot licenses to foster a more diverse marijuana industry in Denver.
"Rushing a delivery decision and plan would negatively impact our ability to hear the voices of all our residents and have a successful social equity plan in place," he explains. "We recognize there are many people anxious for Denver’s decision, but hope they will recognize the need for Denver to do this right and not fast."
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