A new group of bills passed amid the 4/20 holiday that will bring big updates to the Mile High’s cannabis market. The changes include allowing for both medical and recreational delivery, alterations to license approvals, and creates (better) licensing for social consumption spaces.
Such updates are long overdue, as markets both older and newer than Denver's have adopted many of these guidelines (medical marijuana delivery has been readily available in California for around a decade). With new guidelines in place, the years to come will be some exciting times, so let’s see exactly what the new laws entail.
Denver Cannabis Delivery Services
Especially poignant among the pandemic, the need for delivery access has been a constant issue for America’s oldest legalized cannabis market. Beginning July 1, 2021, the city will be able to grant delivery and transportation licenses. However, transportation licenses will be granted only to businesses with majority ownership that meet the requirements for social equity applicants until 2024. After July 1, 2024, applications will be open for all businesses.
- 1 ounce flower, 800mg in infused edibles, or 8g of concentrate for recreational shoppers
- 2 ounces of flower, 20,000mg of edibles, or 40 g of concentrate for medical cardholders.
Currently, it remains unclear if medical patients granted extended plant counts (ECP) will be able to purchase their full extra-allotments, but if the current state of ECP sales is reflected in delivery, expect to only be able to purchase extended amounts from the dispensary they have designated to grow for them, if at all.
Hospitality Licenses for On-Site Consumption
Finding a place to actually smoke the cannabis you purchase has been an issue since Colorado first legalized cannabis. Council Bill 21 allows for the creation of both mobile and stationary hospitality licenses, which will allow for social consumption on the premises. Additionally, these licenses will come in two forms, standard, and retail (the latter of which will allow for on-premise sales).
For stationary hospitality licenses, consumption areas may be indoors or outdoors, so long as there is an Odor Control Plan in place that has been approved by the city. Mobile licenses (think tour vans and the like) cannot allow consumption when parked for longer than 30 minutes (to discourage them from essentially becoming movable stationary licenses). Mobile operators will have to submit a route plan and stick to it, as well.
The new law explicitly prohibits tobacco and alcohol consumption on the same premises as cannabis consumption.
While you still won’t be able to grab some suds with your buds, consumption spaces will operate under familiar guidelines: hospitality license holders cannot permit consumption between the hours of 2:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m., and cannot serve anyone visibly intoxicated. Part of the passed legislation package also repealed the former guidelines for social consumption licenses.
Social Equity Requirement for New Cannabis Business Licenses
Another addition to Denver’s cannabis framework is that there will be a temporary moratorium on granting new medical marijuana business licenses to anyone not meeting social equity applicant requirements outlined by the state. As mentioned, this extends to 2024 for transporter licenses (both medical and recreational) but will extend to 2027 for all medical retail, cultivation, and production licenses.
Applicants for cannabis testing facilities and marijuana research and development licenses are exempted from these restrictions, as
well as medical dispensaries who are applying to add a recreational license for the same location.
In order to qualify for social equity, business owners must be Colorado residents and meet the following requirements:
- The applicant has not been the beneficial owner of a license subject to disciplinary or legal action from the state licensing authority or the department resulting in the revocation of any marijuana business license issued by the department or the state licensing authority;
- And has demonstrated at least one of the following:
- The applicant has resided for at least fifteen (15) years between the years 1980 and 2010 in a census tract designated by the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade as an opportunity zone or designated by the state licensing authority as a disproportionately impacted area;
- The applicant or the 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 civil asset forfeiture related to a marijuana investigation;
- or The applicant’s household income in the year prior to application did not exceed an amount determined by the state licensing authority rule governing social equity license qualifications.
Impact of Denver’s New Regulations
Denverites have had similar changes dangled in front of them, hinted at, or promised in some form many times over the years since legalization. Whether or not these new guidelines will actually have their intended impact remains to be seen, but something feels a little different this time. With the amount of commerce (and thus tax revenue) that would pour into the city from new types of cannabis business is significant, not to mention the increase in tourism that will come with better accommodations. Thus, even the city itself has a stake in the game. After the economic hit of the pandemic, new cannabis revenue could make a significant impact on making up for the losses. Here’s to hoping that this is the beginning of a new era in Denver’s cannabis scene.