City of Denver Releases Annual Report on Local Cannabis Industry

Officials in the city of Denver released its annual cannabis industry report, which covers a wealth of information about most recent data and its comparison to previous years.

A report called “The Denver Collaborative Approach,” conducted by the city of Denver, Colorado, was released on September 20. This report has been consistently published every year since 2015, one year after recreational legalization was implemented. The report covers a wide variety of industry facts and figures, including cannabis taxes, sales and revenue, noteworthy accomplishments and more.

“As legalization spreads across the United States, Denver remains squarely in focus. More than ever, the city is looked at to provide guidance on how it effectively implemented and continues to manage the first-of-its-kind sales and commercialization of voter-approved retail marijuana,” the report states in its introduction. 

It continues to recap the fluid efforts of the Denver Office of Marijuana Policy and how it is constantly at work to ensure that the city’s cannabis industry remains compliant. “Denver continues its collaborative approach to marijuana management, remaining nimble and flexible to keep pace with the sustained growth of sales and innovation in the marijuana industry, while remaining in constant communication with the industry and residents to ensure balance among many competing interests.”

In January 2014, Denver was home to 731 medical cannabis business licenses and 270 retail licenses. As of January 2021, the number of licenses is much more balanced, sitting at 441 and 476 respectively (although January 2020 showed similar results).

The report’s sales data only reflects sales that were collected in 2020. Between 2019 and 2020, recreational cannabis sales increased by 18 percent, and medical cannabis sales increased by 31 percent. For the entirety of the state of Colorado during the same timeframe, recreational cannabis sales increased by 25 percent, with medical sales expanding at a rate of 31 percent.

Unsurprisingly, 32.6 percent of the state’s recreational cannabis sales came from the city and county of Denver. This exhibits a consistent decrease in sales from Denver, which suggests that cities outside of Denver have continued to grow and expand. As a whole, combined Colorado retail and medical cannabis sales is recorded at $715 million during 2020 (a 21 percent increase from 2019).

So far in 2021, $24.6 million of the city’s cannabis revenue was granted toward “affordable housing and homelessness services, youth violence prevention, STAR program pilot implementation, leases and other one-time equipment costs.”

The report spotlights some of the city’s accomplishments between 2014-2020, which includes donating money toward various community services, such as free after-school and summer programs for children and the establishment of a recreation center in 2018. The report also notes what other changes it seeks to implement. First, the city intends to examine how it can further assist local cannabis businesses on a financial, technical and business support level. It also aims to “provide social equity applicants licensing exclusivity for most licenses for the next six years and the exclusive ability to conduct deliveries for the next three years.” 

Second, it wants to continue a focus on clearing cannabis-related convictions with its Turn Over a New Leaf Program, which was first put into effect in 2019. So far, the program has received 583 applications, and 94 convictions were labeled as “eligible” for expungement.

“Under the leadership of Mayor Hancock, the city has adopted a collaborative model to manage marijuana, which includes multiple agencies working together to preserve, protect and enhance Denver’s excellent quality of life. This work is grounded in the city’s priorities of marijuana management, including robust regulation, strict enforcement, effective education and equitable access to the industry.”

The report’s last section goes into great detail about the city’s law enforcement data, including details about black market sales and common offenses. The Denver Police Department collected 3,098 pounds of illegal cannabis in 2020. Local police report that cannabis-related offenses account for less than one percent of all crime in the city of Denver, with a total of 435 in 2020 (out of the city’s total offenses across the board, which sits at 73,322).

“The Denver Collaborative Approach” report is a valuable source of information regarding the city’s cannabis industry, and it’s a positive example of a city embracing all aspects of cannabis within its borders.

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Governor of Colorado Pens Letter Urging Legitimate Cannabis Banking

As Democrats in Congress appear eager to finally tackle comprehensive marijuana reform, Colorado Governor Jared Polis hopes they address one particular cannabis policy first.

In a letter to a trio of Democratic senators on Friday, Polis urged them to pursue legislation implementing new banking and taxation measures that would enable financial institutions to work with cannabis businesses.

“I am thrilled that you are bringing forward a long-term, comprehensive solution that deschedules cannabis while enhancing social equity pathways,” wrote Polis, a Democrat serving his first term as governor of Colorado. “I hope that you will first focus your efforts on the two biggest barriers to the success of the cannabis industry: banking and IRS Code Section 280E (280E).

He said that “the cannabis industry has been stymied by 280E, which prevents these businesses from taking business-related deductions associated with the sale of cannabis.

“Congress must swiftly act to pass any measure, a number of which have been introduced in past sessions, to make an exception for legal cannabis businesses from 280E,” he wrote. “While the CAOA would address this issue by descheduling cannabis, a narrow measure focused on relieving cannabis businesses from the detrimental effects of 280E would expeditiously solve this problem.”

Polis wrote the letter to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senator Cory Booker and Senator Ron Wyden, who have thrown their weight behind the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA), legislation that would effectively legalize marijuana on the federal level. 

The bill was introduced in draft form by the three Democratic senators last month.

But while members of Congress continue to wrangle out the details of that legislation, Polis believes there is a ready-made cannabis reform bill just waiting to be passed: the SAFE Banking Act, which Polis backed as a member of Congress representing Colorado’s second district.

“Legislation to address these issues has more bipartisan support than ever before and can be passed in the short-term as you continue to work on the details of the CAOA,” Polis wrote in the letter.

The SAFE Banking Act, Polis said, “has passed the U.S. House of Representatives four times but has never been taken up by the Senate.

“As a Congressman, I co-sponsored Representative Ed Perlmutter’s SAFE Banking Act because it is essential to bringing cannabis payments out of the shadows,” Polis wrote. “Medical and recreational cannabis sales in the U.S. were estimated to total $17.5 billion last year, but because of antiquated federal banking regulations, almost all cannabis transactions are cash-based. Not only are cash-only businesses targets for crime, cannabis businesses are further disadvantaged compared to other legal businesses by being unable to open bank accounts or obtain loans at reasonable rates.”

Polis continued to explain that it’s harmful for an industry as successful and large as cannabis industry to be forbidden from legitimate banking institutions. Polis continued, “The cannabis industry is simply too large to be prohibited from banking opportunities, and the Senate must remedy this harm by bringing this measure up for a vote in the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs immediately.”

Polis, a longtime cannabis reform advocate, wrote the letter amid growing signs that Democrats are poised to deschedule marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act, a move that would finally put the federal government in line with states like Colorado that have already legalized pot.

Schumer said earlier this year that Democrats were ready to seriously tackle the issue––even as President Joe Biden remained wary of legalization.

“We will move forward,” Schumer said. “[Biden] said he’s studying the issue, so [I] obviously want to give him a little time to study it. I want to make my arguments to him, as many other advocates will. But at some point we’re going to move forward, period.”

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Colorado to Vote on Increasing Cannabis Taxes in November

Enough signatures were submitted by Colorado advocates to get Initiative 25 onto the ballot this November, which, if passed, would increase recreational cannabis tax percentages and fund “out-of-school learning opportunities” for children and youth.

The Office of the Colorado Secretary of State announced on August 25 that Initiative 25 will proceed on to the ballot this November because a portion of the submitted signatures were verified as legitimate. A total of 124,632 valid signatures were required to proceed, and advocates submitted 203,335. 

“After reviewing a five-percent random sample of the submitted signatures, the Elections Division of the Secretary of State’s office projected the number of valid signatures to be greater than 110 percent of the total number of signatures required for placement on the ballot,” the agency wrote in its “Statement of Sufficiency.” The statement concluded that the approximate number of valid signatures was 116.40 percent, it would be green-lit for ballot certification.

Initiative 25 is also referred to as the “Learning Enrichment and Academic Progress Program,” or LEAP, and is proposing a three percent increase in recreational cannabis taxes starting in 2022. If approved, it would further increase the tax to five percent by 2024. According to state analysts, the tax hike would help the state bring in an extra $137.6 million per year.

The initiative would also take $22 million per year from the state Permanent Fund and transfer it to the State Public School Fund, as well as take the same amount from the General Fund and move it to the LEAP Fund. The movement of these funds would be used to help pay for extra learning opportunities for kids, such as tutoring options, mental health services or other services for special-needs students.

“These learning opportunities, during periods and timeframes outside of their regular school schedules provide essential academic and life skills for children and youth to thrive in school and life,” reads the final draft of Initiative 25. “These learning opportunities are critical to maintaining and enhancing academic performance and mental, physical and emotional health for all children.”

“Colorado kids who were struggling in school before the pandemic are even farther behind now,” said the Colorado Children’s Campaign Policy and Partnerships Manager Stephanie Perez-Carrillo. “The LEAP initiative will make Colorado the first state in the country to offer a statewide approach to helping kids recover from current COVID losses, while also creating a long-term plan to prevent opportunity gaps from developing in the future.”

There are many reported supporters of Initiative 25. This includes 10 Senators, 11 State Representatives and many educational leaders and organizations. Former Senate President Bill Cadman is one of many who believes it’s essential to invest in the state’s children. 

“The LEAP initiative is an excellent opportunity to provide tutoring, test preparation, enrichment programs and more to Colorado students who often have the greatest needs, yet limited family resources,” said Cadman. “Providing every student in Colorado with out-of-school benefits which can be tailored to their specific needs should help them overcome academic setbacks exacerbated by COVID.”

However, tax increases of any kind are bound to be met with opposition as well. While funding youth services is worthwhile, organizations like the Colorado Freedom Force believe that Initiative 25 would only benefit the wealthy.

Colorado has garnered a strong history of cannabis sales revenue and tax data since the state’s legalization bill was passed in 2012. The most recent reports of the state’s collection reveal that Colorado has surpassed over $10 billion in total sales so far.

The same reports show that since 2012, 16.4 percent of the Marijuana Tax Cash Fund went toward education initiatives. In 2018, an estimated $20 million in grant funds was given to school health professionals, literacy programs and dropout/bullying prevention.

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Episode 372 – The New Cannabis Workplace

Betty Aldworth and Heather Sullivan join first-time host Brian Adams to talk about the evolution of marijuana use by workers, the push to drive social equity through delivery licensing, and possible revisions to medical marijuana laws in states like Colorado. Produced by Shea Gunther.

Photo: Hugo Chisholm/Flickr

Legal Pot Delivery Sales Launch in Denver, Colorado

Denver, Colorado-based dispensary Strawberry Fields and the Doobba delivery service announced pot deliveries will be open to the public today, August 23. The companies completed their first six legal pot deliveries on August 19 during a soft launch test round.

Strawberry Fields is Denver’s first dispensary that received a permit for delivery, while Doobba was Denver’s first delivery service to receive a license, and several other companies are in the process of nearing operation. 

In order for a dispensary to offer delivery, it is required to either qualify under a social equity designation intended to benefit communities negatively impacted by the War on Drugs, or partner with a social equity delivery company—Doobba, in this case. Strawberry Fields chose the latter route, partnering with Doobba to meet the city’s requirements. 

Per city code, dispensaries cannot operate delivery themselves; instead, they must go through third party transporter businesses. The city has issued four transporter licenses, according to Denver city data.

Doobba’s owners, the husband-and-wife team Ari and Karina Cohen—plan on expanding into more dispensaries in the future. Ari qualified for social equity status because he has previously been arrested for cannabis “lifetimes ago.” The company was close to an agreement to deliver for L’Eagle, according to Doobba co-founder Ari, and is in talks with other companies such as Seed & Smith.

“We are thrilled to be able to deliver cannabis to customers in Denver and Aurora,” Doobba co-founder and CEO Karina Cohen told High Times. “It’s a first step in helping Doobba in ending cannabis prohibition. Customers who live in Denver and Aurora can also sign up for unlimited delivery membership on

Both of the Cohens have a long history of working in the cannabis industry, and together, they are excited to take on these new challenges. 

How Cannabis Delivery Works

Ordering cannabis delivery works in a similar manner to ordering food or alcohol delivered to your door. Think DoorDash for weed. Customers go to the Doobba or Strawberry Fields websites, or they can go through one of several online dispensary menu services, such as I Heart Jane, for delivery. They then choose a time frame for the delivery and receive updates via text message about their order’s progress. 

Doobba is currently giving customers a two-hour time frame for deliveries.

Denver allows people ages 21 and older to order cannabis for delivery between the hours of 8 a.m. to 12 a.m. Deliveries can cross into other jurisdictions that also allow delivery, such as nearby in Aurora.

Last July, Doobba handed in the first application for a license to deliver cannabis. Strawberry Fields will rely on Doobba for the time being to carry out deliveries across Denver city proper during the early stages of the rollout.

Currently only five other dispensaries are permitted for delivery in Denver: Cookies, Denver Kush Club, Diego Pellicer, L’Eagle and Star Buds. But Strawberry Fields and dooba are the first to become operational, as none of the others launched delivery services yet. A small number of stores and transporter services are currently awaiting approval from the city.

It appears as though several other companies are positioning to get involved in cannabis delivery as well. “Most people still don’t know this is available,” Cohen told Westword. “Like anything that’s new, normally it would take a year for everyone in Denver to realize they can do this. We’re going to try our darnedest to get to that point within three months.” Delivery sales are poised to become a convenient way to order cannabis in the area.

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Episode 371 – Where Cannabis Reform is Headed

Mike Liszewski and Brian Adams join host Heather Sullivan to talk about the future of cannabis reform at the local level, what 2022 could hold for the reform of psychedelic laws, and the latest developments in Ohio for legalized adult use marijuana. Produced by Shea Gunther.