The Black Hashish Fairness Initiative discusses alternatives and new legal guidelines in Colorado

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Rectifying the injustice of the war on drugs is an enormous task the legal cannabis industry of Colorado is poised to undertake in the face of dismal statistics. Black Coloradans are twice more likely to be arrested for marijuana crimes than white Coloradans, and according to the Black Cannabis Equity Initiative, which aims to change that, only 7 percent of the state’s cannabis entrepreneurs are black people.

In a November 19 Zoom meeting, officials from Denver, Aurora, and the state discussed policy changes that will affect the marijuana industry in 2021. The virtual meeting also provided a platform for members of the cannabis industry, social justice advocacy groups, and community representatives to discuss their hopes for social justice.

John Bailey, founder of the Black Cannabis Equity Initiative, opened the meeting by highlighting the importance of social justice in the cannabis industry. “I think the reason we don’t know what social justice is like as a society is because we’ve never seen it,” he said. “The cannabis industry is no exception.”

But that could change. Referring to musician Gil Scott-Heron, Bailey stated, “If any of you have ever heard of Gil Scott-Heron, there was an album called Winter in America and there was a clock on the cover, Big Ben, and the time on it The clock was 12:01, the first minute of a new day. ”

Ean Seeb, Special Advisor on Cannabis to Governor Jared Polis, and Dominique Mendiola, Deputy Director of the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division, discussed the state rules that will come into effect January 1, 2021, as well as Polis’ goals for the marijuana industry for the coming year.

The MED will accept applications for a social equity program on January 1, the day House Bill 1424, which established the program, goes into effect. Colorado residents are granted social justice licenses who have been arrested or convicted of a marijuana crime, civilly forfeited in a cannabis investigation, or lived in a designated neighborhood with low economic opportunity or a neighborhood with high crime rates. (Relatives who have been arrested and / or convicted also qualify an applicant.)

Applicants must submit a general license application as well as specific applications for the Accelerator program or other license types (retail, cultivation, delivery, etc.). The expansion of the Social Justice Acceleration Program will also take effect on January 1st. They will match new business owners with already established cannabis companies to grow marijuana on licensed acreage. With the Accelerator licenses, partners can also operate retail pharmacies.

Seeb outlined several other “very specific and measurable” goals set by the Polis Cannabis Cabinet for 2021. This includes increasing equity and diversity in the cannabis industry by 10 percent by June 30 (from currently 191 minorities and 375 female owners to 210 minorities and 413 women); Establish a “Cannabis Industry Aid Program for Members of Under-Represented Communities” also by June 30th; Establish a “working group to evaluate and develop a strategic plan by next year to address the disclosure of criminal offenses related to licensing and deletion and sealing of records” and strengthen the hemp industry by increasing the raw material content of the hemp grower through stronger business partnerships. “”

To reduce the number of cash-only businesses, the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies will “increase the number of cannabis-related businesses that receive banking and financial services by about 20 percent annually through the end of 2023.” Seeb said.

Denver and Aurora officials discussed how their cities would implement new cannabis laws in the coming year. Local governments must uphold all state laws that affect the marijuana industry in their jurisdictions. In 2021, this will include delivery and entertainment licenses, as well as cannabis advertising laws.

“It’s really important to have consistency across the country,” said Ashley Kilroy, executive director of the excise and licensing division in Denver. “If we have someone who qualifies as a delivery business applicant in Denver, hopefully that person will.” meet the same standards if they want to expand to Adams County or if they want to expand to Brighton. ”

Denver is in the final stages of developing plans for delivery, hospitality and social justice licenses, which the Denver City Council is expected to vote on in 2021. “We’re still developing all of this,” said Molly of Excise and Licenses Duplechian. “We’re really only limited to the final draft details, though. We hope to have a draft regulation published by the end of the month and to schedule some stakeholder feedback sessions for December. The goal is to get our city council process underway in January 2021.” bring. ”

Aurora City Council will vote on a proposed ordinance on social justice and delivery on December 7th. If approved, delivery can begin as early as January. The ordinance would reserve marijuana supply licenses for state social justice applicants for 36 months. The vote on the proposed ordinance shows that Aurora City Council is ready to take action on social justice issues in the cannabis industry, said Robin Peterson, director of the Aurora Marijuana Enforcement Division.

And while hospitality licenses are also being discussed, she added, “This is a bit more of an in-depth conversation.”

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Clara Geoghegan is a graduate of the University of Colorado Boulder where she studied anthropology with an emphasis on public health. She worked at Radio 1190’s News Underground and freelanced for Denverite. She is now the cannabis intern at Westword.

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