Colorado’s cannabis industry makes modest gains in minority ownership

Denver Post

Almost 17% of regulated marijuana business owners in Colorado identify as minorities, according to new data by the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division, but one Black entrepreneur contests that there’s much more work to be done. “Cannabis ownership in Colorado is still a pipe dream for people of color,” said Wanda James, founder and CEO of Denver’s Simply Pure Dispensary, which was the state’s first Black-owned cannabis dispensary. “When I say people of color, I mean Black and Latino bases that were harmed by the drug war.” The new licensee demographic data for this month, which was reported as of Jan. 1, confirmed that the office surpassed its goal to boost minority-ownership of marijuana businesses to 16.8% by June 30. “We look at that as a success, but we’re nowhere near where we want to be overall,” said Shannon Gray, marijuana communications specialist in the Department of Revenue’s Marijuana Enforcement Division. The state, and Gray’s team in particular, are “focused on righting the wrongs of the war on drugs, and making sure that we provide an equal playing field for individuals who have been kept out of the legal marijuana industry.” Out of 1,661 license owners with disclosed ethnicities, 1,380 – or about 83% – are claimed by white people, with Latinos claiming 132 and Asian Americans holding 67. Black owners account for 48 licenses, or 2.9%. James called these numbers “100% spin” in a Monday interview, saying many of those owners actually hold delivery licenses. Gray confirmed that a delivery permit is counted as a license type that owners can be affiliated with, describing it as “a way for an individual to get into the industry.” Colorado’s demographic statistics reflect the national levels, as about 80% of marijuana business owners and founders identify as white, according to a 2017 survey by…

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