Colorado Launches Tech Aid, Prepares Loans For Marijuana Entrepreneurs

Colorado’s new Cannabis Business Office has launched technical services and support programs for budding marijuana entrepreneurs, with low-interest loans and grants coming soon.

The technical assistance program, launched on February 2, will provide new business owners with assistance with their plans for licensing, financing and operating the marijuana industry, all of which include a long list of rules or regulations due to federal plant ban.

Loan and grant applications will begin in March, according to Cannabis Business Office Director Tristian Watkins, with the completion of the technical assistance program required for eligibility.

“The program is a prerequisite, but there is an exclusion for two other programs that also work,” says Watkins, explaining that those who have taken courses offered by the Color of Cannabis and Marijuana Industry Group, two professional organizations, are also qualified for grant applications.

Despite being the first state in the nation to allow recreational sales, in recent years Colorado has come under increasing criticism for failing to implement social equity programs for affected communities. by the war on drugs. A branch of the state Bureau of Economic Development and International Trade, the Cannabis Business Office was created by a bill passed in 2021 by the Colorado Legislature that established a series of grants, low-interest loans and technical assistance programs for marijuana business owners. who qualify under the state’s Marijuana Social Equity Provision.

This provision prioritizes communities affected by the war on drugs and requires applicants to prove one of the following: they or their families have been arrested on certain drug charges, they earn less than 50% of income median of the state or they come from a community. designated area of ​​low economic opportunity by the OEDIT.

Local governments such as Aurora and Denver have created their own licensing priorities for social equity applicants, but Watkins says funding and technical assistance have been consistently cited by new business owners. of marijuana as significant barriers to success. The new state-approved tech assistance program was created by Make Green Go, a California-based consulting firm that helped the city of Oakland develop initiatives for the first social equity policy in marijuana in the country.

“We provide information on what it is like to be an entrepreneur and the different cannabis-related business activities they can undertake in the regulated market. We place great emphasis on business development, all research and planning, including financial statements,” Make Green Go owner La Wanda Knox says. “What we want to continue to do is to prioritize education. We believe that getting information about business studies to social equity candidates is important so that they have access to it as soon as possible. the beginning.”

After his first run in Oakland, where nearly 200 social equity marijuana businesses are open but some licensees are struggling to repay government loans, Knox wants to focus more on consumer outreach this round, to ensure that social equity licensees have more durable and recognizable brands. .

“We’re so focused on licensing and getting it set up. Then a lot of brands or products come out, but they’re having a hard time getting that product on store shelves and creating consumer awareness,” she explains.

As an established marijuana market, Colorado needs bigger industry players to join the social equity movement for new ventures to succeed, Knox adds.

According to Watkins, the Cannabis Business Office has “worked collaboratively on ways to further incentivize the bigger players” to help small businesses get started, but he says he can’t share details yet.

In the meantime, Knox encourages potential and established entrepreneurs to work together. “Whether you are for social equity or not, we should all consider ourselves part of this highly regulated market that is difficult to navigate on its own. We should be there to make sure we provide patients and consumers with access to the best product,” she says.

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