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Denver Signs off on Weed Delivery for Social Equity Companies

The Denver City Council on Monday signed off on a measure designed to bolster the city’s cannabis delivery services, and do right by individuals who have been adversely affected by the War on Drugs.

Axios reports that city lawmakers “approved a measure that will make delivery exclusivity permanent for social equity transporters, or business owners considered disproportionately harmed by the war on drugs,” and will also slash “licensing fees for social equity delivery companies and the retailers they partner with.”

This new ordinance provides a sort of lifeline for struggling delivery businesses. As Axios explains, Colorado’s capital city “launched its weed delivery program last year — which requires dispensaries to deliver through social equity transporters through July 2024 — nine of Denver’s 206 pot shops offer the service.”

“With few businesses to deliver for, the licensed social equity transporters are faced with ‘severe challenges’ to avoid going out of business,” Axios reports.

Denver city officials approved a measure allowing marijuana deliveries last year. They also designated the licenses for only social equity candidates for a three-year period.

The city council voted Monday to make the existing rule permanent, as it is due to expire 2024.

Molly Duplechian was the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses executive director. He stated that last year, word had spread that many cannabis dispensaries were awaiting the end of the three-year exclusivity period for social equity applicants before entering the delivery market.

“What we’ve heard is that some of the existing industry may have been waiting the exclusivity period out, or they could have been investing in a social equity transporter and then planning to move to do their own delivery in two years,” Duplechian said.

Delivery of marijuana in Denver has not been easy. As Axios reports, the Denver cannabis market “might be so oversaturated with dispensaries that delivery will struggle to catch on,” and the “reality is that many people would rather pick up their pot than pay extra for delivery.”

Eric Escudero, a spokesman for the city’s Department of Excise and Licenses, said that cannabis delivery services have been slow to get off the ground in Denver.

“It is easy to see that Denver preventing stores from doing their own delivery so social equity businesses have the first crack at this business type is resulting in the industry choosing profit over supporting more equitable access to the industry,” Escudero told local news station 9News.

The station reported that Escudero “said only one in 20 Denver dispensaries offer delivery services,” compared with “80% of stores in Aurora, where the dispensaries can do their own delivery.”

According to the station, the social equity requirements “mandate delivery services be owned by people who lived in disadvantaged areas, make less than 50% of the state’s median income, or who have a personal or familial past marijuana charge or arrest,” and Escudero contends that “extending that requirement forever will incentivize dispensaries to make a deal” with delivery drivers.

“[It] gives the market regulatory certainty so any stores holding out for the opportunity to do their own delivery in two years have no reason to hold out anymore,” Escudero said, as quoted by 9News.

Perhaps the newly adopted ordinance will be sufficient to save struggling delivery businesses.

The station highlighted Michael Diaz-Rivera, owner of Better Days Delivery, who “said his company would likely not make it without city council intervention.”

“It has been tough getting dispensaries to match with us, and we can’t do anything without dispensaries buying in,” Diaz-Rivera said. “Business has been slow.”