Colorado is nearer to creating marijuana licenses for low-income entrepreneurs

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Colorado marijuana regulators are nearing the creation of new business licenses for eligible entrepreneurs who are lacking in funding. The micro-license applications are expected to be available early next year.

Securing a marijuana license has proven to be a costly and lengthy undertaking for a Colorado startup. Most licensing opportunities in Denver and other subway communities are drying up due to market saturation and local licensing moratoriums.

Colorado lawmaking has passed several bills over the past two years to eradicate declining social justice and diversity in the state’s legal pot trade, including measures to relax marijuana employment restrictions for former drug criminals and the authority of Governor Jared Polis, the former Low-level pot to pardon property fees. The micro-license was one of the first Colorado legislature efforts to achieve social justice, but it took a while to develop.

The licenses were created by a 2019 law that revised state regulations for medical marijuana and recreational marijuana. They are designed to increase social justice within the commercial pot by making business permits available to those harmed by the war on drugs. However, a year after the law went into effect, applications are still not being accepted as the state marijuana enforcement department continues to hold rule-setting hearings. The most recent meeting provides an insight into the progress of the MED.

The new micro-license applications are expected to be ready by January 1, 2021, according to MED, and could be used for marijuana dispensaries, growers, and infusion product manufacturing. To be eligible, applicants would need to meet one of several qualifications associated with drug-ban communities, including annual income and evidence of direct harm related to the war on drugs.

Under the rules proposed by the MED, the micro-licenses would be associated with and housed within establishments of established pot companies that agree to host and come with discounted license fees. The licenses are reserved for applicants who meet any of the following qualifications:

  • The applicant has at least fifteen years in any of the between 1980 and 2010 [state] Office for Economic Development and International Trade as an opportunity zone or census area that is designated as a disproportionately affected area.
  • The applicant or the applicant’s parent, legal guardian, sibling, spouse, child, or minor in their guardianship has been arrested for a marijuana offense, convicted of a marijuana offense, or subject to civil property loss in connection with a marijuana investigation.
  • The applicant’s household income in the year prior to the application did not exceed 50 percent of the national median income based on the number of people living in the applicant’s household.

A disproportionately affected area is a region in Colorado that has been identified as such by measurements by the US Census Bureau. This is the percentage of residents who are unemployed, receive public assistance, live below the federal poverty line, or have not graduated from high school. According to Dominique Mendiola, MED’s deputy director, the MED is currently creating a website where applicants can enter their home address and see if they live in a disproportionately affected area.

“A lot of work has been done,” Mendiola said at a recent MED rulemaking meeting. “Our goal is to be able to identify disproportionately affected areas that are set up so that applicants can determine whether they fall into this category or whether they need to investigate some of the other eligibility factors.”

The MED is still considering changes as it has further discussions on setting rules in October.

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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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