Barilla was hit with a felony conviction for illegally growing marijuana on his property in Pine in 2006, eventually receiving a week of jail time and 100 hours of community service. He's stayed connected to the plant since then, though, and was able to seize an opportunity at owning his own cannabis business fifteen years later.
The City of Denver launched a social equity licensing program for cannabis in 2021, reserving new business licenses for applicants who qualify under a new state social equity designation. The system, meant to repair harms to communities impacted by the War on Drugs, prioritizes Colorado residents who were arrested or convicted of drug offenses, or were subject to civil asset forfeiture related to a drug investigation; dispensaries that want to offer delivery must partner with a social equity delivery service like Speedy Transporter.
Qualified under Denver's new program, Barilla began operating as a cannabis transporter in December, and the former roofer is still finding his bearings. He's partnered with FlyHi, a cannabis delivery software and technology company, with Speedy Transporter handling the physical delivery for FlyHi dispensaries.
"When marijuana was all but taboo years ago, and even now to an extent, it’s just something I’ve always been a bit of a part of," he says. "Doing it correctly is amazing, and being able to see the growth in it since legalization has been, too — and to have that opportunity while, prior to that, feeling like you didn’t because of having a felony or [not having] the means to do it."
Speedy Transporter and FlyHi currently only work with Euflora in Denver, but offer the service to homes throughout the city, and hope to connect with more dispensaries. Barilla's goal for the delivery service is to make legal cannabis more available to people with transportation or mobility issues.
"Accessibility is just key, right? You have a lot of people in that parameter, where it’s just not as convenient to go to a store whenever you need to. So to be able to provide the delivery to them is really big," he says.
While the startup service has been a little slow out of the gate, the challenges faced by Barilla aren't exclusive to Speedy Transporter. Only a handful of Denver dispensaries currently offer delivery.
Speedy Transporter currently charges a $6.99 fee to deliver to any residential address within Denver, with two drivers handling around three to five deliveries on average per day. Barilla expects to hire more employees as things "ramp up" in the spring and the unofficial 4/20 holiday on April 20 nears. Ultimately, he wants to make sure that at least 25 percent of Speedy Transporter's employees would qualify under the same social equity qualification that he did.
"That is ultimately a big part of the goal, but you have a lot of hoops to jump through to make that happen, as well, right?" he says. "It’ll take some time."