The city department that regulates marijuana is considering some major changes to Denver’s weed laws.
The Department of Excise and Licenses will ask City Council to consider dropping Denver’s cap on the number of dispensaries and cultivation sites currently allowed in the city. It will also ask members to legalize weed delivery and marijuana bars that let people smoke indoors.
The department said the proposed changes are the most comprehensive since recreational sales started in 2014. They’re the outcome of a process the city started earlier this year as it sought to revamp the city’s current weed laws.
The changes would also provide more opportunities for social equity applicants. Denver would accept new applications for dispensary locations and cultivation sites for the first time since 2016 — but only from social equity applicants — for the next six years. (The city will use the state’s definition for these applicants, which includes a person who has been arrested, convicted or was subject to a civil asset forfeiture connected to a marijuana offense, or someone who lives in low-income or distressed communities, often called opportunity zones.)
Denver currently has a a cap of 451 marijuana cultivation and sales locations (220 marijuana sales locations, 299 cultivations). That cap would be eliminated.
Department spokesperson Eric Escudero said the proposals seek to “remove barriers” and make operating marijuana businesses more accessible to people of color.
Other proposals include replacing the city’s existing marijuana consumption pilot program, which allows adults to consume marijuana in a public setting and was passed by voters in 2016, with a “marijuana hospitality program.” The program would allow smoking and sales at certain licensed locations. Escudero said smoking would be allowed indoors and outdoors, with odor mitigation requirements. The proposal would allow for licensed locations to sell small amounts of weed and allow on-site consumption and allow for spaces where people can consume their own weed.
Denver’s first licensed consumption lounge, the Coffee Joint, lets people vape or eat edibles on-site. Under the new proposal, people would be allowed smoke weed as well.
The department drafted the changes after discussions with a group made up of social equity activists, City Council members, representatives from state agencies, and marijuana industry members. Two more public meetings are scheduled next week to offer feedback on the proposed changes; they’re scheduled for Dec. 15 and Dec. 17 over Zoom.
Escuerdo said City Council could review the changes within the next few weeks. Under the proposal, applications for the new licenses would be accepted starting on July 1.
So far this year, marijuana product sales in the state are approaching a previous annual record set in 2019, according to the Denver Post.
This story has been updated to clarify when the licenses will be accepted under the new proposal.