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Denver Temporarily Extends Moratorium on Cannabis Businesses

The city is implementing a temporary ban extension to study the impact of the industry.

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When Colorado legalized the sale of recreational cannabis in 2013, Denver enacted a moratorium on new cannabis businesses. For the two years that cannabis has been legal for recreational use, the city has only allowed medical marijuana businesses that existed before legalization and are in good standing with the state to open new recreational stores, grow houses, and edible manufacturing facilities as a way to control the growing cannabis market.  

Plans were in place this November for the city to decide if they would extend that moratorium, but it has been delayed as officials further discuss the current state of regulations.  

The current moratorium is set to expire on January 1st, but the city regulators implemented a temporary ban that will last for 120 days to give them time to explore the issue and decide if it is best to extend the moratorium or end it.  

“We want more time to study the impact of the industry and allow the city time to adjust to more than 440 marijuana businesses here,” said Ashley Kilroy, the marijuana policy director in Denver.  

Potential cannabis business owners are unhappy with the decision, as many entrepreneurs have been waiting for the January 1st deadline to pass so they could being the process of opening new businesses. They are frustrated that the government waited until such a late time in the year to extend the moratorium, which came as a surprise to many.  

Activists are also upset that this moratorium may be renewed because they believe it plays favorites and will encourage the continuation of a bias policy, not allowing people who would like to enter the cannabis market to do so.

Tyler Henson, the president of the Colorado Cannabis Chamber of Commerce, pointed out that, “What you’re doing is the city and county is picking winners and losers in the industry. By continuing the moratorium, it’s saying that there’s something wrong with the industry, which there’s not, and it’s boxing out those who want to get into this industry.”  

The city is afraid that it has reached a saturation point in the cannabis industry and does not want to expand it too quickly. This might be a premature assessment since the sales of cannabis have trumped alcohol in 2015, showing the market for cannabis is strong in the state. Over the 120 day ban, the regulators will need to decide if the worry of oversaturation of the market outweighs the strong bias of the moratorium.  

In May, anxious cannabis entrepreneur hopefuls will learn if they will be able to move forward with their business plans or if they will have to continue to wait for another two years or even move their business ventures to somewhere outside of Denver.

For now, the temporary moratorium will continue to limit new cannabis businesses to the same opening standards that have been in place since legalization took effect.