Social Equity

Equity, diversity and inclusion is a priority for the state of Colorado.  

The Marijuana Enforcement Division is committed to fostering an inclusive and equitable cannabis industry in Colorado that acknowledges the effects of decades of criminal enforcement of marijuana laws on communities of color. As part of Colorado’s commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion, the MED is focusing on outreach and engagement resources to support diversity initiatives in the cannabis industry. The MED's efforts aim to increase diversity in the number of Owner Licenses, which has less diverse representation in comparison to the number of Employee Licensees, so the industry is more reflective of Colorado’s demographics.

A person who meets the eligibility criteria for a Social Equity Licensee can participate in the Division’s “Accelerator Program” or may apply to independently own and operate a Regulated Marijuana Business license. 

What is the Accelerator Program?

The Accelerator Program allows individuals who may have faced barriers to entry in Colorado's retail (adult-use) regulated marijuana industry to own and operate a marijuana business license as part of an agreed-upon partnership with an existing marijuana business that has been endorsed by the MED as an “Accelerator-Endorsed Licensee." An Accelerator-Endorsed Licensee serves as the "host" in the accelerator program by providing capital and/or technical support to a Social Equity Licensee and allowing the Social Equity Licensee to operate as an Accelerator Store, Accelerator Manufacturer and Accelerator Cultivator on the same Licensed Premises or on a separate Licensed Premises provided by the Accelerator-Endorsed Licensee. Applications to participate in the accelerator program will be available beginning January 1, 2021. For all rules pertaining to the accelerator program, please see MED's Permanent Rules.

Why should I apply?

The MED is prioritizing its outreach and education resources to support Social Equity Licensees by providing regulatory compliance assistance via educational bulletins, webinars, dedicated outreach, town-hall events and related forums.

Social Equity Licensees participating in the accelerator program receive technical compliance and/or capital assistance pursuant to an equity partnership agreement between the Accelerator-Endorsed Licensee and the Accelerator Licensee. Examples of the types of assistance an Accelerator-Endorsed Licensee can provide a Accelerator Licensee, including, but are not limited to:

  • Accounting
  • Business services (e.g. sales and marketing)
  • Financial or capital support
  • Information technology support
  • Regulatory compliance support

Accelerator-Endorsed Licensee benefits for participating in the program include:

  • Social Equity Leader Designation to indicate its leadership status
  • MED may consider a social equity leader designation as a mitigating factor when determining the initiation of administrative action or assessment of penalties for violations of the statutes or regulations
  • Compliance Assistance and Education Engagement with MED
  • Possible Application and License Fee Exemptions for a change of owner, change of location, or modification of premises, where such changes or modifications are directly related to its participation in the accelerator program

The State Licensing Authority will not deny an application for a Social Equity License or a related request for a Finding of Suitability on the sole basis of a marijuana conviction.


Additional questions? Reach out via MED Inquiry Form.

Am I eligible for the program? 

Eligibility Criteria - Social Equity License

 ""  Colorado resident
 ""  Has not previously owned an MJ Business that was subject to revocation

 "" ONE of the following:

1. The Applicant resided for at least 15 years between the years 1980 and 2010 in a census tract designated by the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade as an Opportunity Zone or designated as a "Disproportionate Impacted Area";

2. The Applicant or Applicant's parent, legal guardian, sibling, spouse, child, or minor in their guardianship was arrested for a marijuana offense, convicted of a marijuana offense, or was subject to civil asset forfeiture related to a marijuana investigation; or

3. The Applicant's household income in a year prior to application did not exceed 50% of the state median income as measured by the number of people who reside in the Applicant's household.

 ""  The Social Equity Licensee holds at least 51% ownership in the business

Learn more about the Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT)'s Opportunity Zones.

Social Equity Eligibility Tools

  • Unsure if you've resided in an Opportunity Zone or Disproportionate Impacted Area?
    • The MED, in partnership with the Colorado Department of Public Safety and the Department of Local Affairs' State Demography Office, is providing this tool to assist prospective applicants who may qualify for a Social Equity License based on the above-noted "Opportunity Zone" or "Disproportionate Impacted Area" eligibility criterion:
  • Unsure if you qualify for a Social Equity License based on the "Household Income" criterion?
    • Use this Median Income Table to identify the state where you (the applicant) resided in the year prior to your application and the number of individuals who resided in the applicant’s household. If your (the applicant’s) income in the year prior to application and as shown on your income tax return is less than the number shown in the column and row for your state of residence and household size, then you may qualify based on your household income.
 

Eligibility Criteria - Accelerator-Endorsed Licensee

 ""  The Applicant has not, in the previous two years, been subject to a license revocation or active suspension issued by the State Licensing Authority or any Local Licensing Authority or Local Jurisdiction in which it operated.
 ""  Has not previously owned an MJ Business that was subject to revocation

 ""  Information demonstrating the Applicant operated its license for at least two years prior to the date of application; or if the Applicant is unable to demonstrate operations for a period of at least two years it must satisfy at least one of the following:

1. The Applicant possesses a valid commercial marijuana license issued in another state and has operated such license for the preceding two years;

2. For the preceding two years the Applicant has participated in an accelerator, incubator or social equity program that may, but is not required to be, associated with the commercial marijuana industry; 

3. The Applicant has at least two years of regulated cannabis industry experience at the managerial or executive level; or

4. The Applicant has at least two years of business experience in a highly regulated industry other than the marijuana industry.


How do I apply?

NOTICE: Applicants must FIRST submit a suitability application. Please do NOT submit any Regulated Marijuana Business License application (including for an Accelerator License) until you have submitted the suitability application and received approval as a Social Equity Licensee.

To apply for a license based on the “Social Equity Licensee” criteria established under section 44-10-308(4), C.R.S., you must determine whether you are (a) applying to own and operate a Regulated Marijuana Business License to participate in the Accelerator Program pursuant to section 44-10-203 C.R.S., or (b) whether you are applying to own and operate a Regulated Marijuana Business independently.

Participation in the Accelerator Program as a Social Equity Licensee:

  • Required Finding of Suitability: Applicants will need to submit a request for a Finding of Suitability (in order to be issued an Owner’s License). Fingerprints are required with the submission of suitability applications. Prior to application submission, visit a Colorado State-Approved third-party fingerprint provider to have your fingerprints taken and include the fingerprint receipt with your application packet. Visit the Business Owner webpage for additional information and to access the Suitability application.
  • Regulated Marijuana Business Application: Applicants will need to submit a Regulated Marijuana Business application. Visit the Regulated Marijuana Business - Social Equity Program Application.
  • Accelerator Business Licenses Available: When submitting the business application, applicants will need to identify which Accelerator License they intend to operate as part of the Accelerator Program. Participation in the Accelerator Program is limited to Retail Marijuana operations (does not include Medical Marijuana operations) as follows:
    • Accelerator Cultivator: A Social Equity Licensee qualified to participate in the accelerator program and authorized to exercise the privileges of a Retail Marijuana Cultivation Facility on the premises of an Accelerator-Endorsed Retail Marijuana Cultivation Facility.
    • Accelerator Manufacturer: A Social Equity Licensee qualified to participate in the accelerator program and authorized to exercise the privileges of a Retail Marijuana Products Manufacturer on the premises of an Accelerator-Endorsed Retail Marijuana Products Manufacturer.
    • Accelerator Store: A Social Equity Licensee qualified to participate in the accelerator program and authorized to exercise the privileges of a Retail Marijuana Store on the premises of an Accelerator-Endorsed Retail Marijuana Store.
  • Required Accelerator-Endorsed Licensee: Prior to exercising any privileges of an Accelerator License, any person approved to participate in the Accelerator Program will first need to designate an Accelerator-Endorsed Licensee. An Accelerator Endorsed Licensee is a Retail Marijuana Cultivation Facility Licensee, Retail Marijuana Products Manufacturer Licensee, or a Retail Marijuana Store Licensee who has been endorsed to host and offer technical and capital support to a Social Equity Licensee. Visit the Accelerator-Endorsement Application.

Independent Operations as a Social Equity Licensee:

  • Required Finding of Suitability: Applicants will need to submit a request for a Finding of Suitability (in order to be issued an Owner’s License). Visit the Business Owner webpage for additional information and to access the Suitability application.
    • Fingerprints are required with the submission of suitability applications. Prior to application submission, visit a Colorado State-Approved third-party fingerprint provider to have your fingerprints taken and include the fingerprint receipt with your application packet
  • Regulated Marijuana Business Application: Applicants will need to submit a Regulated Marijuana Business application. Visit the Regulated Marijuana Business - Social Equity Program Application.
  • Business Licenses Available: When submitting the business application, applicants will need to identify which Business License they intend to operate. Applicants seeking to independently operate a Regulated Marijuana Business (outside of the Accelerator Program) may select from any of the Medical and Retail Marijuana Business licenses issued by the MED, subject to local licensing authority requirements, restrictions, and prohibitions.

Current Accelerator-Endorsed Licensees

  • List coming soon!

Upcoming Events

Past Events

  • Town Hall: Banking, Financial Services, Insurance and Economic Development for Cannabis Businesses - December 16, 2020
  • COVID Update and Fireside Chat - November 20, 2020
  • Town Hall: Sustainability - October 29, 2020
    • Cannabis Sustainability Webinar Series: Videos
    • Cannabis Sustainability Webinar Series: Slide Decks

Social Equity Resources

  • Please visit the Compliance page of our website to access MED’s latest Industry Bulletins and Compliance Tips. Additional resources, including social equity program webinars and compliance tools coming soon!

How Private Industry is Supporting Diversity Initiatives 

  • Job Postings: If you have relevant job postings, please fill out this Google Form.
  • Ancilllary Business Information: If you are an ancillary business and have information you'd like to share, please use the MED Inquiry Form.

Enabling Legislation

  • HB 20-1424Social Equity Licenses in Regulated Marijuana 
    • Social Equity Program: Established a "Social Equity License", expanded on the Accelerator Program, and provided rulemaking authority for the Department of Revenue to create and implement a social equity program administered by the MED. Also provided the Governor with expedited pardon authority for marijuana possession offenses.
  • SB 19-224Sunset Regulated Marijuana 
    • Criminal History Prohibitions: Amended felony disqualifers by reducing the original 5 and 10 year prohibition (5 years for any felony not involving a drug crime; 10 years for any drug related felony) to a flat 3 years for any felony or while currently subject to a deferred judgment or sentence for a felony.
    • Accelerator Program: Established new license types as part of an "Accelerator Program" to permit existing businesses to obtain an "endorsement" to host and provide capital and technical support to "accelerator" licensees.

Rulemaking Information specific to Social Equity

MED Demographic Information

Questions? 

Please reach out to:
Danielle Henry, MED Policy Analyst
danielle.henry@state.co.us

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