Even before Denverites were told to stay at home as much as possible, they were already fans of delivery services. Drizly, an app-based alcohol delivery service, said that 14 liquor stores completed over 16,000 delivery orders in North Denver in 2019 using their app. Now the city has formed a task force to explore implementing marijuana delivery. A 2019 bill sponsored in part by North Denver legislators Sen. Julie Gonzales and Rep. Alex Valdez allows local municipalities to opt in to marijuana delivery if they choose.
Lantern, Drizly’s sister company for cannabis delivery, recently launched on the East Coast and is looking forward to the possibility of operating in Denver. “Denver has always been a great market for Drizly’s alcohol delivery business; it’s our third largest market and we have an office here”, said Jacqueline Flug, VP of Regulatory & Industry Affairs for Drizly. “Given Drizly’s success, we believe Denver will also be a good market for cannabis delivery.”
While the regulatory framework is still being created, Flug said the two companies will operate separately, meaning customers can order alcohol from Drizly and marijuana products from Lantern, but not both from a single app. This is due to Colorado’s strict separation of liquor and marijuana businesses.
Councilwoman Amanda Sandoval, who represents Northwest Denver, is also optimistic about delivery but wants community feedback. “I think it’s really important when you’re talking about the medicinal side,” said Sandoval, noting that some medical patients are immunocompromised or otherwise have higher health risks when they are out in public. She said she isn’t sure about delivery for recreational marijuana, however, and wants to hear more from her district before any proposals go to council.
With the workgroup recently formed, delivery is likely months away, but some dispensary owners are hoping to speed up the timeline.
“We believe that during this unprecedented time it is our industry’s obligation to support disproportionately impacted communities and high risk populations as they try to stay safely at home,” said Good Chemistry Founder and CEO Matthew Huron who has a store in LoHi.
Denver City Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca, who represents parts of North and Central Denver, sits on the newly formed committee. She said she’s supportive of delivery but concerned about minority representation in stakeholder groups.
“The way that they roll it out will be really important,” CdeBaca said. She can imagine a simple licensing system that empowers delivery workers by separating delivery licensing from specific dispensaries, giving them more freedom to work with multiple dispensaries.
Wanda James, who owns Simply Pure Dispensary in LoHi with her husband Scott Durrah and other partners, echoed Councilwoman CdeBaca’s concerns about racial inequity. She said she fully supports delivery, but believes Black and Latino business owners are too often excluded from the conversation and wants to see more representation, noting that Colorado is often a model. “How we handle social equity issues in Colorado will reflect on licensing in other, more diverse states,” said James. She pointed out that minorities had a higher rate of arrest and conviction for possession pre-legalization than white users, which barred some from ownership when legalization passed. She doesn’t want to see inequities repeated.
Eric Escudero, the Director of Communications for Excise and Licenses, said the city is dedicated to an inclusive process. “We think we have assembled a very diverse group that will do a great job giving the City the input needed to decide whether Denver will opt in to marijuana delivery or hospitality and help us achieve our social equity goals,” said Escudero.
Not everyone is excited about the idea of delivery though. Smart Colorado formed after legalization passed in 2013 and says they “advocate for protections for kids since marijuana was legalized, commercialized and is readily available.”
“Smart worked for 2 years with state policy makers to exclude individuals under the age of 21 to be eligible for delivery of high potent marijuana.” said Henny Lasley, Smart Colorado’s Co-Founder and Executive Director. “While we were successful in this effort, we implore local cities and counties that decide to opt in to marijuana delivery to ensure strict regulations to prevent under age diversion and strict penalties including potential loss of license.”
Lantern said they fully support regulations that ensure marijuana products are sold to adults only and doesn’t believe delivery creates more risk for minors accessing marijuana products. “Legal requirements should be made around delivery that are just as stringent for sales at licensed locations,” said Flug. She also believes businesses know it’s in their own self interest to comply with the law for all sales. “A dispensary knows their license is on the line and lack of compliance can lead to the loss of a license. So simply put, dispensaries have an immense amount to lose if they deliver to a minor.”