Social Equity Program In Denver Boosts Cannabis Entrepreneur Rights Among Drug War Affected

Denver Department of Economic Development and Opportunity (DEDO) launched a new entrepreneurial assistance program to boost cannabis business ownership among social equity applicants, especially for those individuals disproportionately impacted by marijuana prohibition and enforcement.

According to the state’s definition of a social equity applicant, Denver is seeking cannabis entrepreneur applicants who meet at least one of the following criteria:

Resided for at least 15 years between the years 1980 and 2010 in a census tract designated as an Opportunity Zone or Disproportionate Impacted Area; or

The applicant or applicant’s parent, legal guardian, sibling, spouse, child, or minor in their guardianship was arrested for a marijuana offense, convicted of a marijuana offense, or was subject to a civil asset forfeiture related to a marijuana investigation; or

The applicant’s household income in the year prior to application did not exceed 50% of the state’s median income as measured by the number of persons in the household, according to DEDO.

The Color of Cannabis – a local woman-owned firm experienced in helping cannabis newcomers understand and navigate entry into the industry – was selected by DEDO as its program partner.

“We’re partnering with a local business, a local organization called the Color of Cannabis, to provide a training program, a technical assistance program, for those entrepreneurs looking to get into this industry,” said Chelsea Rosty, Denver Department of Economic Development and Opportunity chief of staff. “This will provide a training program for them that goes through everything from funding to regulations to marketing to challenges within the space.”

“We are pleased to bring our commitment to greater ownership equity in the cannabis industry to this historic program,” said Sarah Woodson, CEO, and founder of The Color of Cannabis. “We’ll serve several small-group cohorts over the next year and surround them with advice, mentoring, information, and encouragement.”

The Cannabis Social Equity Technical Assistance training includes 10 weeks of curriculum and covers topics such as the history and politics of the cannabis industry, compliance, delivery, hospitality, marketing and best practices.

“As with any business start-up, there is a substantial learning curve for both tangible and intangible elements of business ownership. In partnership with The Color of Cannabis, we’ve developed this rigorous curriculum to meet the unique needs of cannabis social equity applicants,” said Jen Morris, DEDO executive director. “It is also important for us to reinvest our local marijuana sales tax dollars into the community to level the playing field for wealth-building within the industry.”

The Program allows social equity applicants to conduct cannabis deliveries for three years (until July 1, 2024); it also, ensures that applicants have exclusive access to most cannabis licenses for six years (until July 1, 2027); waives application fees, and reducing license fees for social equity applicants; and provides a free program to have certain low-level marijuana conviction records sealed.

The deadline for registration is July 15 at 5 p.m. with the initial training session occurring on July 23 after a kick-off event on July 21 from 4-7 p.m.

“As part of our extensive social equity efforts in partnership with the cannabis industry, we’re pleased to now fund free training for social equity applicants,” Mayor Michael B. Hancock said. “Denver set the standard for successful cannabis regulations as the first city with legalized sales in America. Creating and improving equitable access for all to enter this industry, especially those disproportionally impacted by the war on drugs, remains our priority.”

However, it is important to note, that the Program is funded with $500,000 of City of Denver retail marijuana special sales tax revenue.


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