colorado governor jared polis signs cannabis social equity bill

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has signed a bill into law that allows him to pardon low-level cannabis possession cases that occurred prior to cannabis legalization in 2012. It also includes a social equity component, giving those with prior marijuana convictions, their families, and those from designated zones of low economic opportunity a clear path to apply for a marijuana business license. The new bill also prohibits regulators from denying licenses based on past marijuana convictions. A sponsor of the bill, State Rep. James Coleman said it’s “the first of many actions that must be taken to have racial equity in our state.”

The new law, which goes into effect September 14, allows Polis to grant pardons to those who were charged with possession of 2 ounces or less of marijuana before 2012. While the Governor already had the ability to give pardons, the bill will expedite the process by allowing him to bypass district attorneys and judges.

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Colorado Gov. Jared Polis speaking at the Colorado State Capitol, June 25, 2020

"There are too many people that have a prior conviction for personal amounts of cannabis, fully legal today, that prevent them from getting loans, from getting leases, from raising capital, from getting jobs, from getting licenses, from getting mortgages — and that's wrong.” - Gov. Jared Polis

Sarah Gersten, executive director of marijuana criminal reform organization the Last Prisoner Project, was hopeful in the bill’s promise to accelerate the pardon process. She explained, “by housing the authority within the executive [branch], it cuts down some of the work,” previously facilitated by the courts.

In addition to the governor’s new pardoning power, HB 1242 will also create a clear path for those looking to obtain a social equity marijuana business license. Those applicants will be able to benefit from an accelerator program that was already in the works, enabling them to use existing cannabis facilities to build their business. As stated by, Rep. Coleman, the hope is to give, “diversity a strong foothold in the developing industry.”


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