Aurora moves ahead with ‘social justice’ marijuana delivery plan

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AURORA | Aurora lawmakers on Monday advanced a plan that would allow for marijuana deliveries inside the city and possibly the region.  

In a council study session, a majority of council members approved moving forward a plan that would regulate deliveries with a focus on social justice for Aurorans left out of the state’s booming marijuana industry.

Lawmakers will take a first vote on the plan next month. 

In the proposed rules, Aurorans could have recreational marijuana delivered to their doorstep between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m by licensed dispensaries. The city still outlaws medical marijuana sales. Deliveries would be capped at one ounce of marijuana, eight grams of marijuana concentrate and 80 ten milligram servings of THC per business day.

Marijuana products could be delivered from Aurora businesses into other cities also approving recreational delivery and vice versa. Statewide, cities can allow deliveries beginning in 2021 under state law. 

During the study session, most lawmakers opted for a plan to reserve marijuana delivery licenses for applicants negatively impacted by marijuana laws before legalization in 2012. So-called social-equity applicants would be the only businesses allowed to deliver marijuana for three years, and their application fees would be mostly covered with a city grant.

State lawmakers passed a bill this year paving the way for social equity licensees.

To snag a coveted delivery permit during those first three years, an applicant would have to prove that they’ve lived in a “disadvantaged area” or have some legal trouble from since-overturned marijuana laws impacting themselves or their families. 

A so-called disadvantaged area includes “opportunity zones” as declared by the state Office of Economic Development and International Trade. Multiple opportunity zones are in Aurora, including the East Colfax corridor west of Interstate 225 and a swath south of Denver International Airport in Adams County.

Councilmember Nicole Johnston said the measure intends to support victims of the so-called war on drugs.

“We’re trying to counter some of the policies… that we put in place in the first place,” Johnston said during the meeting. 

Even after legalization, Black residents in particular have been arrested for marijuana offenses at disproportionately high rates, according to the Associated Press. A Denver government report recently found three-quarters of the city’s marijuana businesses owners were white.

Councilmembers Marsha Berzins and Dave Gruber opposed the social-equity measures. They cited concerns that the city could be sued for barring some applicants from delivering marijuana.

If the plan continues to garner support from most council members, it would also lower the bar for people with criminal records to work in the marijuana industry. 

People serving a sentence for a felony or who were convicted of a felony three years prior wouldn’t be able to work with marijuana. Currently, Aurora bars people with felony convictions in the last 10 years and those with a felony drug conviction at any time. Violations of local drug laws, petty offenses or misdemeanor convictions in the last five years are also disqualifications.

During the regular council meeting, lawmakers finalized a temporary cap on food delivery fees restaurants pay to deliver companies. 

In the plan, companies such as Uber Eats and GrubHub could charge restaurants no more than 15% of the order value in fees until April 2021.

The move was sponsored by Councilmember Curtis Gardner and driven by concerns that struggling restaurants aren’t able to capture dollars from their own services as customers increasingly order in meals, rather than don a mask and sit down in local establishments facing capacities limitations because of the new coronavirus surge.