Colorado Governor indicators invoice to determine Colorado Marijuana Fund for Social Justice

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Colorado will soon have $ 4 million in loans, grants, and technical assistance to marijuana business applicants who qualify for a social equity program designed to help communities hit by the war on drugs .

The new cannabis advancement program, overseen by the state’s Department for Economic Development and International Trade, was officially inaugurated by Governor Jared Polis on March 21 at Simply Pure, a Denver pharmacy owned by black marijuana business owner and attorney Wanda , heard James signed Senate Draft 21-111.

“We know that the long shadow of drug laws in our failed war on marijuana falls disproportionately on people of color, effectively restricting access to an industry that is completely legal and regulated in our state,” Polis said before signing. “We can’t leave equity to chance in any industry, especially in a new industry when it gets underway.”

Funds for the program are now set at $ 4 million until lawmakers reviews the budget in fiscal year 2022-23, but that number is fluctuating. Polis’ first proposal last year saw only $ 150,000 hiring a new OEDIT employee to assess the need for social justice for marijuana in Colorado. When that amount was criticized by industry stakeholders, the figure stood at $ 5 million before the Legislative Joint Budget Committee finally set $ 4 million for the final bill.

The GAP program is funded by government marijuana tax revenue, with certain amounts for loans, grants and technical assistance being set by the OEDIT rulemaking. 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. A little less than $ 1 million would be used for grants to social equity firms and support organizations, with several hundred thousand dollars being suggested for helping new business owners through help with business planning, operations consulting, and other services.

Those eligible for assistance must demonstrate 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 classified as an economically unlikely zone of OEDIT.

“It’s not enough to get started,” says John Bailey, director of the Black Cannabis Equity Initiative, “but what is provided is an honorable gesture in the right direction.”

The new law empowers OEDIT to administer the program directly and to distribute funds to applicants or “through one or more partner agencies”. However, the language also requires OEDIT to establish these guidelines “with other relevant government agencies, industry experts and other stakeholders” as well as the Colorado Economic Development Commission.

Senator Julie Gonzales and Representative Leslie Herod, two sponsors of the bill, also attended the signing. Gonzalez, whose districts include North, West, and Downtown Denver, highlighted data from a 2020 survey of the city’s marijuana industry that found 12.7 percent of business owners and 12.1 percent of employees were Latino or Hispanic have been identified – although that category makes up nearly 30 percent of the population, according to the US Census Bureau. And while nearly 10 percent of the Denver population is black, only 5.6 percent of property owners were identified as black in the same survey.

“This data is important because we actually left it to chance,” said Gonzales. “We’ve left equity to chance for far too long, and we’ve seen those inequalities reflected in this new industry.”

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Thomas Mitchell has been writing about everything cannabis-related for Westword since 2014, covering sports, real estate, and general news en route to publications like the Republic of Arizona, Inman, and Fox Sports. He is currently the cannabis editor for westword.com.

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