Colorado report shows diversity in marijuana ownership largely the same since 2018


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Colorado was the first state to legalize recreational marijuana in 2012, but has only just implemented social equity licensing rules.

Jacqueline Collins

The diversity among Colorado cannabis business owners has changed little over the past three years, according to a recent report from the state’s Marijuana Enforcement Division.

The demographic study of MED 2021 license holders, released in September, found that about 2.9% of pot businesses in Colorado are owned by people who identify as black, while 7.7% of pot holders of license are Latino and 83.7% identify as white. That’s less than a 1% increase in black marijuana business owners since 2018, when the data was first collected.

During the same period, the number of Latino licensees increased by just over 2%. Asian marijuana business owners, previously not listed in the 2018 survey’s final analysis, made up about 3.9% of licensees. The number of female marijuana licensees has declined since 2018, according to the report, from just under 22% to 19%.

“We want to open the door for more people to participate, not less people to participate. That’s all I’ve always asked in this industry, is how do you get people involved? Says Wanda James, Founder and CEO of Simply Pure Dispensary in Denver. “We know that when you have more women involved and more minority groups involved, more diversity is just better all around and makes Colorado richer. Not just richer financially, but richer socially.”

According to James, one of the few black women to own a marijuana business in Colorado, the disparity in owner demographics stems from an old Colorado law that prohibited people accused of criminal drugs from owning a dispensary. “It has effectively knocked out all of your visionaries. It would be like saying Bill Gates can’t participate in the tech industry because he made computers in his garage, ”she said.

Although Colorado has since passed laws allowing former drug traffickers to own marijuana businesses, the industry has matured since recreational legalization in 2012, and with that comes more financial hurdles, according to Khadija Adams. , Business Coach at CE Hutton, a Minority Focused Business Development. company in the cannabis industry.

“We are all looking for capital, all raising capital. It’s a huge barrier to entry, ”says Adams.

In March, Governor Jared Polis signed Senate Bill 21-111 to implement Colorado’s own social equity program, which is set to launch a first round of technical assistance funded by the State for social equity entrepreneurs. The program has currently approved twenty applicants, according to MED. However, approved social equity entrepreneurs – business owners in communities affected by the war on drugs – still need local approval before opening a store in their respective communities.

In an effort to encourage greater minority participation, the local governments of Aurora and Denver have reserved licenses for social equity contenders. In February, Aurora began deliveries of recreational marijuana, reserving delivery permits to existing social equity licensees and dispensaries until 2024. Denver took a more aggressive approach, allowing applicants only equity to apply for any new marijuana business outside of testing labs until 2027.

“The exclusivity of the license was really the product of listening to our community and stakeholders, people who were negatively affected by prohibition,” said Eric Escudero, communications director of the excise and licensing department. from Denver.

The delivery of recreational marijuana, a recently licensed business practice in Denver, is “a huge opportunity for social equity contenders because it is not as expensive to start a delivery haulage business as it is. store or culture, ”according to Escudero.

However, delivery licensing is getting off to a slow start, with just nine stores implementing delivery licensing and three apps awaiting approval in the Denver, Excise, and Licensing data shows. According to National Cannabis Industry Association spokesperson Morgan Fox, established marijuana companies have a social obligation to work with new licensees in Denver.

“If you are actively involved in this industry, you have a duty to look to the past and try to undo the damage these policies have done now that you are making money from it,” he says.

Check out past and current diversity reports and additional information about the state’s social equity program on the MED website.

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