Mar 2, 2021 - News
Where weed hospitality could bud in Denver
Reproduced from Denver Department of Excise and Licenses; Map: Axios Visuals

Weed bars and tasting rooms are coming — but the question is where.

Why it matters: Few businesses in Colorado are weed-friendly, despite the fact that recreational sales were legalized seven years ago and Denver voters approved a pot hospitality program in 2016.

  • Denver is moving ahead on a trio of proposals that would allow weed bars and tour buses, legalize cannabis delivery and open applications for new retail and cultivation licenses for the first time since 2016.

Yes, but: A major obstacle to equitable growth in the cannabis hospitality industry could be the 1,000-foot distance ("license buffers") that would be required between each shop and schools, child care facilities, rec centers and more, the Denver Business Journal reported.

  • What they're saying: "Much like the board game Settlers of Catan, there will be some good spots available but the rest will suffer," Marijuana Industry Group executive director Truman Bradley told DBJ.

Of note: A study commissioned by the city last summer found a lack of diversity in the local industry, prompting officials to structure the current proposal in a way that gives preference, and in some cases exclusive access, to "social equity applicants."

  • That group, as defined by the state of Colorado, includes people who have been convicted of certain marijuana-related offenses prior to legalization, or people who live in low-income households or vulnerable communities.

The other side: Concerns remain around whether increasing the number of marijuana retail spots could lead to a spike in underage usage.

  • A 2019 survey from the state public health department found there was a "significant increase" in dabbing, or consumption of cannabis concentrates, which are much more powerful than other pot products.

What to watch: A city council committee will review the new policies Tuesday. If approved, a full rollout could come as early as July.

This story first appeared in the Axios Denver newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.

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