All hail the drivers! Weed delivery finally comes to Colorado.

by Angelica Leicht

If you live in Denver, ordering an eighth of weed to be delivered to your doorstep is now as simple, and as quick, as ordering a pizza. Maybe even quicker, now that there’s a shortage of restaurant workers to make the pie — much less drop it off at your home.

The first recreational marijuana delivery took place late in August during a soft opening for Doobba, the city’s first licensed cannabis delivery service provider.

Doobba was brought to life by Ari Cohen and his wife, Karina Cohen, started the business, which is contracted by pot shops that are approved for cannabis delivery to move their recreational flower, edibles, and other products to your doorstep.

“There are people that are homebound, there are people who don’t have access to a vehicle or public transportation to get to a store, there are people who just don’t want to come to the store — they want to be discrete in their use of marijuana — and I think this is perfect,” Ari Cohen told The Denver Channel earlier this month.

Prior to the entrance of Doobba, Colorado’s recreational weed delivery options were nonexistent — despite over a dozen other legal markets, including
Arizona, Arkansas, California, Maine, Mary- land, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont, allowing for it.

That alone has made the introduction of Dooba — and rec cannabis delivery services altogether — a huge win for Colorado’s cannabis industry, despite the current limited scope of delivery.

Thus far, only a handful of cities allow for cannabis delivery in Colorado, and only Denver’s delivery market is up and running. Others are expected to follow suit in the near future, but for now, the Front Range will be leading the way.

The new delivery scene in Denver

As of late August, about 215 marijuana shops in Denver had applied for delivery permits, and six had been granted a permit. Four companies had been licensed to transport products from dispensaries as contracted delivery services. Applications for the others, High Demand Delivery and Grn Bus, are still pending, Eric Escudero, director of communications for Denver Excise and Licensing, told The Denver Channel.
That leaves a very limited number of drivers and services to deliver weed to the approximately 2.9 million residents of the Denver metro area.
If delivery is to survive and thrive in Denver, it will have to grow significantly — and it will need to do so quickly.

How quickly that can happen, though, is anybody’s guess.

There are a few surprising hurdles that would-be pot delivery services face when applying for their spot within the Denver market.

Until July 1, 2024, Denver medical and retail marijuana stores may not conduct deliveries to private residences and consumers, per the Marijuana
Enforcement Division (MED) in Colorado — not unless they meet the qualifications for a social equity business, anyway.
For now, stores must contract with a medical or retail marijuana transporter that holds a valid Denver transporter license and a valid Denver delivery permit if they want to deliver to consumers.

But, that’s not the only hurdle. Denver medical and retail marijuana stores must also have a valid Denver delivery permit to accept orders for delivery, too. Once they have that permit, they’ll use a transporter to complete deliveries on their behalf, which is one of the provisions of the Denver Revised Municipal Code and the Colorado Marijuana Code.

And, the licensing requirements for delivery services are no small feat, either. Delivery service companies must qualify under a social equity designation, which is intended to benefit communities negatively impacted by the War on Drugs.

This social equity requirement will continue until 2027 in Denver, with licenses for delivery businesses being made available exclusively to social equity applicants.

To qualify as a social equity business, owners must live in an area of the city that’s disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs, must have an income that is less than 50% of the state median, or must have have a cannabis-related arrest or conviction in their record or on a family member’s record.
But, in three years, there will be openings for dispensaries that do not meet the social equity criteria to self-distribute, meaning they will be able to open their own delivery service component of the business. That won’t be available until 2024, however, so for now, the dispensaries that do not meet the requirements will have to contract their deliveries through a business, like Doobba, that does.

Doobba owner Ari Cohen qualified for social equity status because he was arrested for cannabis “lifetimes ago,” which made Doobba eligible for the right designation for delivery.

“We are thrilled to be able to deliver cannabis to customers in Denver and Aurora,” co-founder 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 doobba.com”
Strawberry Fields, one of the Front Range dispensaries that’s licensed for delivery, chose to partner with Doobba to meet the city’s requirements. It’s not clear yet what route the other five permitted shops have taken, but Doobba stated earlier this month that it was close to an agreement to deliver for L’Eagle and is in talks with other companies such as Seed & Smith.

How cannabis deliveries work in Denver

As you may imagine, delivery of cannabis is just as laborious and regulated as the sale and cultivation of cannabis across the state of Colorado. It’s also a costly venture.

For starters, a $1 surcharge is assessed on each delivery, and that money goes to the municipality where the center or store is located, or to the county if the center or store is in an unincorporated area. This money goes to help cut down the costs local law enforcement incur related to marijuana enforcement.

And, just like buying cannabis in a dispensary, in order marijuana online and have it delivered, you have to be 21 years old, have an ID that proves it, and must be present during the delivery.

Deliveries are also limited to one per day per location, and must be made to private residences. Sorry, 21+ students on campus in the Denver area, but no college campus deliveries are allowed. Hotel dwellers are also out of luck.

Recreational marijuana orders are limited to 1 ounce and 2 ounces for medical use, too, which means there is no way to get around the buying limitations imposed by the state.

And, as is par for the course with cannabusiness in Colorado, the repercussions for violating the rules are steep. If a delivery driver skirts the rules and delivers to an off-limits location, they better be prepared to be prosecuted criminally.

There are other measures in place, too.

All delivery orders are tracked, and the product and cash has to be stored in a lock box.

Dash cameras are required for driver protection, and Doobba’s drivers use unmarked cars. But, the good news is that you don’t have to have cash on you to get the job done — provided you can meet all the requirements listed above.

In fact, Karina Cohen told High Times her company prefers credit card transactions over cash to help keep drivers safe.

“In the past, a lot of dispensaries have been subject to getting Robbed,” ​​Karina Cohen said.

But, as is the case for dispensaries and other cannabis-related businesses, the rules don’t necessarily mean that every service will be a cookie- cutter version of the rest.

Each of the potential delivery companies have plans to operate differently. For example, Grn Bus and Doobba rely on consumer-facing platforms that connect buyers to dispensaries, while High Demand Delivery does not.

The only thing that ties them together are the regulations — and the fact that they all qualify as social equity businesses under Colorado’s requirements.

Why socially equitable businesses are important

When it comes to cannabis businesses, the players — from the owners, the cultivators, and on down to the budtenders — tend to be very, very, well, white.
“We took a hard look at who has benefited from legalization. Unfortunately, a select group of individuals who are connected or have the financial means have benefited in the past seven years,” Escudero told the Denver Channel. “We’re determined to bring more equitable access to the industry to deliver on the full promise of cannabis legalization.”

And, the results of a recent study back up Escudero’s observations.

Per the Cannabis Business and Employment Opportunity Study, which was led by the city of Denver, the majority of the city’s cannabis-focused businesses are owned and staffed by white residents. This leads to a lack of opportunities for people of color to get involved in the industry.

According to the study, 74.6% of owners of licensed cannabis businesses within city and county limits are white, as are 68% of employees.

Hispanic, Latino and Spanish residents account for just 12.7% of cannabis business owners and 12.1% of industry employees, while Black and African
American residents make up a mere 5.6% of ownership and just 5.9% of industry employees.

These numbers don’t reflect the actual population in Denver County, though — which is problematic, to say the least.

About 30% of the population in Denver County is Hispanic or Latino, and about 10% is Black or African American, according to 2019 statistics from the U.S.
Census Bureau.

And, the stats are even worse for other people of color.

Residents who identify as Middle Eastern account for just 2.8% of owners in the cannabis industry, and make up just 0.4% of employees, according to the report.

Per the report, there is absolutely no representation of Asian, Asian Indian, Native American, or native Hawaiians in ownership positions, and these demographics collectively account for 9.2% of employees in the local cannabis industry.

“This study sadly confirmed what was widely suspected,” said Ashley Kilroy, executive director of Denver’s Excise and Licensing division, in a statement.
“Just like what has been seen across the state and in other legalized markets across the U.S., Denver does not have a diverse marijuana industry.”
The social equity requirements are meant to help remove these types of barriers for minorities and people of color, as well as those who may have been adversely affected by the archaic drug laws prior to legalization of cannabis in the state of Colorado.

A win for some

That’s precisely how Ari Cohen got into the business right now.

Cohen was arrested and charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute more than two decades ago, which had to be addressed each and every time he applied for a job as a classically trained chef, which was his field prior to Doobba.

Eventually, Cohen found his way to a role with an edibles manufacturing company, but worried about how his past would continue to affect his future lingered.

“We weren’t sure if he’d ever have another job,” Karina Cohen told the news outlet. “It was a big to do and super, super stressful. Every day you could see the shadow over Ari, like, is this going to go through?”

So, to help curb some of the social inequities that occur with the cannabis industry — and the limited opportunities for licensing for dispensaries and grow operations in the state — Denver opted to narrow the initial focus of the delivery of cannabis to help those who have been systematically excluded from the earlier Colorado green rush.

“A group of social equity people that have been looking for stores and licenses, we’re keeping tabs, and collectively we probably have over 100 ‘no’s. The places just don’t work,” Cohen said. “And because of that, delivery will most likely be the first go-to opportunity because otherwise you don’t have any opportunity.”

And, while it’s still early in the process, so far, it appears to be working. Doobba is already off the ground and running, and other social equity cannabis delivery businesses are likely to follow soon.

Whether or not it will actually level the playing field completely for those who have been excluded from the cannabis industry thus far remains to be seen, but for now, it’s a bright spot for Denver — one that will inevitably be trickling through the rest of Colorado in short order.

And we, for one, cannot wait to see what comes of it.

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