Colorado officials on Wednesday announced the launch of a new office to provide economic support for the state’s marijuana industry.
The Cannabis Business Office (CBO) “shows our administration’s focus on growing this thriving industry that supports jobs and our economy,” Gov. Jared Polis (D) said in a press release.
The division, which was created as part of a bill signed into law in March, is being funded by cannabis tax revenue. It will focus on creating “new economic development opportunities, local job creation, and community growth for the diverse population across Colorado.”
Importantly, it will be prioritizing social equity, offering resources to people from communities most impacted by marijuana criminalization. That includes loans for equity businesses, grants to support job creation and technical assistance.
“This office will offer tools like technical help and improve access to money for businesses,” Polis said. “Where the federal government has fallen behind, Colorado will lead. Colorado is, and always has been, the best place to live, work, grow and sell cannabis.”
The governor had initially asked lawmakers back in January to create a new a new cannabis advancement program as part of his budget proposal.
CBO will fall under the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade. Tristan Watkins, the new Cannabis Program manager, said it will “provide novel and ambitious programming to provide more equitable opportunity in the cannabis industry.”
“As the office expands, we are confident it will further solidify Colorado as the leader in the nation’s cannabis industry,” he said.
Beyond this program, the state has worked to achieve equity and repair the harms of prohibition in other ways.
For example, Polis signed a bill in May to double the marijuana possession limit for adults in the state—and he directed state law enforcement to identify people with prior convictions for the new limit who he may be able to pardon.
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The governor signed an executive order last year that granted clemency to almost 3,000 people convicted of possessing one ounce or less of marijuana.
Funding for the new office is made possible by tax revenue from a booming cannabis market in the state. In the first three months of 2021 alone, the state saw more than half a billion dollars in marijuana sales.
The lack of access to federal financial support for marijuana businesses became a pronounced issue amid the coronavirus pandemic, with the Small Business Administration saying it’s unable to offer those companies its services, as well as those that provide ancillary services such as accounting and law firms.
Polis wrote a letter to a member of the Colorado congressional delegation last year seeking a policy change to give the industry the same resources that were made available to other legal markets.