Denver to issue new cannabis business licenses but not in some neighborhoods

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Next month will be the first time since 2016 the city accepts applications for new locations.

Denver begins accepting new applications for cannabis business licenses next month — but not for certain neighborhoods.

The city’s Department of Excise and Licenses on Friday informed marijuana industry insiders of neighborhoods that the city feels already have an “undue concentration” of marijuana stores and/or cultivation facilities.

Applications won’t be accepted for any neighborhoods that are considered to have an undue concentration, the city said in an email.

Three neighborhoods — Overland, Elyria Swansea and Northeast Park Hill — appear on both lists.

Next month will be the first time since 2016 the city accepts applications for new locations.

The pause for certain neighborhoods isn’t permanent.

The city will update the list annually, and some neighborhoods could fall off, department spokesman Eric Escudero said. The rule is that new licenses will be barred for the top five neighborhoods, including ties.

Here are the neighborhoods barred from new retail stores, both medical and recreational, for the next year, and the number of existing locations:

  • Overland – 14
  • Northeast Park Hill – 11
  • Baker – 10
  • Elyria Swansea – 10
  • Five Points – 10
  • Valverde – 10

The neighborhoods barred from new marijuana cultivation facilities, and the number of existing locations:

  • Montbello – 32
  • Northeast Park Hill – 32
  • Elyria Swansea – 29
  • Overland – 23
  • College View-South Platte – 18
  • Lincoln Park – 18

New marijuana businesses also still have to abide by proximity restrictions, which require they be at least 1,000 feet from schools, childcare establishments, alcohol or drug treatment facilities, city-owned rec centers or city-owned outdoor pools.

“Limiting density of marijuana businesses is a successful tactic Denver has taken to help prevent youth marijuana use,” Escudero wrote in an email, citing multiple studies. “When it becomes commonplace for youth to see marijuana businesses, their perception of risk goes down and they are more likely to use marijuana.”

Another limiting factor for new cannabis locations will be what the city is calling “social equity” qualification. The marijuana licensing overhaul from April included a rule that, for the next six years, the only new licenses that will be approved — for delivery, hospitality, store and grow locations — will be those that come from applicants that are majority-owned by qualifiers for the city’s “social equity” list.

The idea, Escudero said, is to address the negative effects the so-called “war on drugs” had on minority communities, as well as the fact that Denver’s cannabis industry is overwhelmingly white-controlled.

A “social equity” applicant must meet the following criteria:

  • Must be a Colorado resident
  • Must not have previously had a marijuana business that was subject to revocation

One of the following:

  • The applicant resided for at least 15 years between the years 1980 and 2010 in a census tract designated by the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade as an Opportunity Zone or designated as a “Disproportionate Impacted Area”
  • The applicant or applicant’s parent, legal guardian, sibling, spouse, child, or minor in their guardianship was arrested for a marijuana offense, convicted of a marijuana offense, or was subject to civil asset forfeiture related to a marijuana investigation
  • The applicant’s household income in a year prior to application did not exceed 50 percent of the state median income as measured by the number of people who reside in the applicant’s household
  • The social equity applicant must own at least 51 percent of the business

The city is allowing for what it calls “accelerators” to partner with individuals who meet the above qualification with a minority stake in the applicant’s business.

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