On April 20, 2021, Denver Mayor, Michael Hancock, signed the Marijuana Omnibus Bill and Marijuana Hospitality Bill into law, which make significant changes to Denver’s current cannabis laws. These changes directly address hot-button items such as social equity and permanently implement the relaxation of certain regulations initially implemented for safety purposes during the pandemic. These changes are long overdue and signify that Denver may be assuming the mantle of trendsetter for a post COVID-19 cannabis industry.
The changes include:
Social equity is a top priority for the cannabis industry, and like many other jurisdictions that have legalized cannabis, the Denver cannabis industry is overwhelmingly white-owned. The City of Denver recently released a report which found that 75% of cannabis business owners are white, 6% of owners and cannabis industry employees are Black or African American, 13% of cannabis business owners are Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish and 12% of cannabis industry employees are Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish. With Denver’s new social equity initiatives, it joins other major cities like Oakland and Los Angeles that are taking action to get more underrepresented business owners into the cannabis industry.
Does Denver’s overhaul of its cannabis rules represent a trend in the industry? Likely. We anticipate that many states and cities will follow suit and adopt similar social equity initiatives and permanently relax certain regulations that were initially adopted as a temporary response to the pandemic. A silver lining of COVID-19 is that many state regulators learned the cannabis industry is capable of surviving and thriving without over-regulation of every aspect of the industry. We will continue to monitor state and local social equity initiatives and rulemaking/legislative action in the cannabis industry as our nation slowly crawls back to some post COVID-19 normalcy.