Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed several bills into law this past Sunday, one which will benefit diversity in the booming cannabis industry.
Making a stop at Denver’s Simply Pure dispensary, Polis signed Senate Bill 21-111, a bill designed to help qualifying people get a leg up in Colorado’s cannabis industry. The bill creates a program in the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade to support cannabis industry entrepreneurs, primarily social equity licensees.
According to the Colorado Department of Revenue, the Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED) is trying to increase equity and diversity in the cannabis industry to make it more reflective of Colorado’s demographics. It is committed to fostering an inclusive and equitable industry in Colorado by acknowledging the effects of decades of criminal enforcement that mostly targeted communities of color.
As part of Colorado’s commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion, the MED is focusing on outreach and engagement resources to support diversity initiatives in the cannabis industry. It is also aiming to increase diversity in the number of Owner Licenses, which has less diverse representation in comparison to the number of Employee Licensees, so that the industry is more reflective of Colorado’s demographics.
According to the state legislature’s website, the bill signed by Governor Polis is intended to provide loans to social equity licensees for seed capital and ongoing business expenses, grants to social equity licensees to support innovation and job creation and organizations that support marijuana businesses to be used to support innovation and job creation of social equity licensees, and technical assistance for cannabis business owners prioritizing social equity licensees who have been awarded a loan or grant through the program.
The program will initially be funded with a $4 million transfer from the cannabis tax cash fund to the newly-created marijuaja entrepreneur fund. There has been a serious push lately for social equity in Denver’s cannabis industry after a survey conducted by the city found that the industry severely lacked diversity. Nearly 75 percent of licenses cannabis business owners are white.