Colorado Governor Jared Polis has just announced the creation of a Cannabis Business Office. The office will boost social equity and increase diversity in the cannabis industry, by providing financial and technical assistance, in addition to job opportunities, to budding cannabis entrepreneurs.
The office was established through Senate Bill 21-111 and will fall under the jurisdiction of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade. The new office will be led by Tristan Watkins, who formerly worked as the Chief Science Officer of Boulder-based dispensary Lucidmood.
As cannabis remains illegal at a federal level, sourcing loans or other banking services can be challenging to find for those getting a foothold in Colorado’s cannabis industry, which is currently valued at $2.2 billion. An initial injection of $4 million will be provided by the state’s marijuana cash tax fund to kickstart the initiatives.
The Cannabis Business Office will grant microloans and loans to social equity licensees. A particular focus is on people of color whose prior cannabis convictions may have precluded their entry into the industry. A recent Colorado report has found that Black and Latino populations are still arrested at double the rate of their white peers for marijuana-related offenses. The office has also identified supporting business owners in economically disadvantaged areas as an area of priority.
Others who will benefit from the initiatives include Colorado residents who haven’t previously owned a marijuana business, those who have lived in a state-recognized “opportunity zone” for at least 15 years, and individuals living in a household earning less than half of the state median income. Additionally, the Office will award grants and fundings to dispensary owners who support job creation and innovation and offer planning advice and grants for capital and business expenses.
According to Polis, the Cannabis Business Office is intended to help grow and support the thriving Colorado cannabis industry. “Where the federal government has fallen behind, Colorado will lead. Colorado is, and always has been, the best place to live, work, grow and sell cannabis,” says Polis.