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After Governor Jared Polis signed Senate Law 111 on March 21, the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) was tasked with allocating $ 4 million to implement a new program to promote cannabis with social justice . So how is the money being spent?
The program is designed to encourage the participation of communities affected by the war on drugs in the state’s marijuana industry. According to representative Leslie Herod, a main sponsor of the bill, the distribution of the money is at the discretion of OEDIT – although OEDIT can also hire outside companies to distribute the money and create technical support programs.
Senator Dominick Moreno, another main sponsor, adds that lawmakers will review the process in the years to come. “OEDIT has a three-year spending authority [Joint Budget Committee] and the General Assembly will evaluate the program and consider further funding decisions, “he says.
OEDIT is currently seeking a marijuana entrepreneurship program manager to be responsible for launching and facilitating the financial and technical aspects of the program. OEDIT communications manager Jill McGranahan said the final decisions will be available to the public once approved.
Westword received an earlier draft of the upcoming cannabis advancement program from OEDIT, which outlined the proposed allocations for loans, grants, and technical assistance programs in support of social justice licensees. Here’s a breakdown of what we know:
The criteria for eligibility to issue social justice licenses, which can be found on the Marijuana Enforcement Division website, prioritize communities affected by the drug war through various qualifications. To be eligible, applicants must provide evidence of the following: They or their families have been negatively affected by the war on drugs, they earn less than 50 percent of the median national income, or they come from a community that is designated by OEDIT as a zone of low economic opportunity . These zones also include communities that have historically been marginalized and negatively affected by the war on drugs.
The latest proposal from the governor’s office and OEDIT called for around $ 3 million to be allocated for low-interest loans between $ 50,000 and $ 100,000. These low interest loans are designed for licensees in the early stages of developing their first cannabis business. According to OEDIT, the loans would serve an estimated ten to thirty new companies over a period of five years. Details such as the loan amount and eligibility for a loan versus a grant are at the discretion of the local authorities. Local governments and organizations like Denver and Aurora, which have their own social justice in cannabis programs, could also benefit from these microloans.
A little less than $ 1 million will likely support grants for social justice licensees, as well as for organizations working with new cannabis entrepreneurs. The specific grant amount and the number of companies that could benefit from the grants are not yet known.
Several hundred thousand dollars are planned to be invested in the cannabis technical support program to provide social equity licensees with access to business tools. The program also includes plans for virtual workshops in the marijuana industry to advise business owners, as well as one-on-one mentoring opportunities for aspiring cannabis entrepreneurs. This is available to both new and existing business owners.
Is that enough?
Other states with legal cannabis companies have allocated more funding to their social justice programs. New York, which has just legalized recreational herbs, is already working to anchor diversity in the early stages of the industry, starting with a $ 100 million plan for social justice in cannabis. California’s cannabis stock program has $ 30 million, as does a similar initiative in Illinois – and all legalized recreational cannabis years after Colorado.
“It’s a start,” says Senator Julie Gonzales, who also sponsored the bill that created Colorado’s new program. “I find it exciting that we have been able to allocate this funding and I think it’s an important investment in trying to bring equity in concrete ways to an industry that really needs diversity.”
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Hilal is a Metropolitan State University of Denver alumni with a degree in political science. She has written for Denver Life Magazine and 303 Magazine, and is the current cannabis intern for Westword.