Support the independent voice of Denver and help keep the future of Westword free.
Governor Jared Polis wants $ 5 million to be invested in a new state fund to advance the marijuana industry’s engagement in communities hit by the war on drugs. Most of this money goes into small grants and low-interest loans.
The proposal for the Cannabis Advance Program (renamed the Cannabis Opportunity Program, or COP), written by the Colorado Office for Economic Development and International Trade in collaboration with the Governor’s Office, was made after a bill was passed in the Colorado Legislature in 2020 Establishes an official definition for social justice claimants in the marijuana industry. However, the bill only defined these applicants and did not specify specific programs to which they could apply, let alone their tax implications.
Polis’ initial proposal to use $ 150,000 to hire a new OEDIT employee tasked with assessing social justice needs for marijuana in Colorado quickly met backlash from industry stakeholders who said it would just delay the process. The number to get the program off the ground rose to around $ 3 million and eventually to $ 5 million by the time it reached the state legislative committee on the joint budget, which is expected to be on the proposal later this week will vote.
“The purpose of the cannabis advancement program is to help the creation and growth of cannabis companies and support organizations with social justice, and to further establish Colorado as a leader in the cannabis industry,” the proposal reads. “The cannabis advancement program is a combination of technical assistance and access to capital for licensees of social justice.”
Westword received a copy of the proposal that is not very detailed but gives an idea of where the money would go. $ 3 million to $ 3.5 million has been allocated to a microloan fund “designed to help start-up and grow early-stage cannabis companies owned and operated by ‘social equity licensees.” ” Proposal stipulates that these low-interest loans could run between $ 50,000 and $ 100,000. However, OEDIT recommends leaving the exact numbers to the local discretion. The money would be used to pay for rent, leasing, statutory and state royalties, equipment, seed capital, and other ongoing operating costs.
The proposal provides for an additional $ 1 million to $ 1.5 million in grants to social equity firms and cannabis business support organizations, with the amount per grant listed as “TBD”. Companies receiving the grants would “try to innovate and expand the marijuana industry” while creating new jobs, the proposal said.
The final request – $ 250,000- $ 500,000 for a technical assistance program – would assist the new business owners by providing help with business planning, operational advice and other services.
OEDIT decides how the grant or loan money is paid out. Polis’ office would prefer to send the funds to the local government, who then distribute the money to the award winners, but members of the marijuana industry would prefer to forward it directly to them. You have raised concerns that reliance on local governments could only lead to more bureaucracy.
According to OEDIT, around 87 percent of self-reporting marijuana owners in Colorado identify as white. Colorado, the first state to allow recreational pots to be sold, has been criticized in recent years for not creating more corporate property opportunities for communities hit by the war on drugs. The nationally recognized definition of social justice would give priority to entrepreneurs who can show they have been negatively impacted by the war on drugs, earn less than 50 percent of the national median income, or come from a community designated as a low economic opportunity zone of OEDIT. However, local governments can also create their own definitions of social justice.
So far, Aurora is the only city in Colorado that has officially approved the social justice language for marijuana. Denver City Council is expected to vote on the issue in the next month or two, according to the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses.
Keep Westword Free … Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we want to keep it that way. We offer our readers free access to concise coverage of local news, food and culture. Produce stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands with bold reporting, stylish writing, and staff everything from the Society of Professional Journalists’ Sigma Delta Chi Feature Writing Award to the Casey Medal for the Deservable Journalism have won. Given that the existence of local journalism amid siege and setbacks has a greater impact on advertising revenue, it is more important than ever for us to raise support for funding our local journalism. You can help by joining our I Support membership program which allows us to continue to cover Denver without paywalls.
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.