Amid record-breaking marijuana sales, Denver focuses on industry equity

Local News

DENVER (KDVR) — During the pandemic, Denver hit an all-time record in 2020 for marijuana sales, reaching $715 million. The city is now taking action to make sure more people of color and women can become a part of the industry.

Community and cannabis company members joined together at the Denver Performing Arts Complex Saturday for a resource fair focused on social equity in the marijuana industry.

According to Denver’s Cannabis Business and Employment Opportunity Study, 74.6% of owners of licensed cannabis businesses within city and county limits are white, as are 68% of employees.

Hispanic, Latino and Spanish residents account for 12.7% of cannabis business owners and 12.1% of industry employees, while Black and African-American residents make up 5.6% of ownership and 5.9% of industry employees.

Jarell Wall is the co-founder and CEO of the cannabis company Gentlemen Quinns.

“Financing in our community, which we’ve been historically redlined for getting homes and stuff like that, those echos reverberate today,” Wall said. “The process of becoming an owner when I did was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said the industry has to be proactive in correcting inequities.

“It’s an industry where we still have people of color in particular overburdened with former convictions and citations from possession of marijuana, yet it’s a billion-dollar industry,” Hancock said. “We have to find a way to create a more level playing field.”

On April 20, Hancock signed a new law that legalized marijuana delivery and hospitality establishments for the first time. It also created licensing exclusivity for marijuana business license applications for social equity applicants, as defined by the state.

For the first three years, marijuana retail stores won’t be able to deliver themselves. Instead, they’ll need to partner with a delivery company that’s licensed through the social equity application program.

Shanda Lecompte and her husband are one of these new social equity delivery companies, Canna Couriers.

“My husband was the one who actually qualified us. He had an arrest for marijuana many years ago back in 2006,” Shanda Lecompte said. “It feels amazing to have this opportunity like anybody else in the industry.”

The city says only nine of the 204 Denver marijuana retail stores have delivery permits so far, making it hard for social equity transporters to create partnerships and deliver products.

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