Aurora lawmakers pursue pot delivery licenses, repeal of pit bull ban

In this May 11, 2017, photo, Andre Shavers, who runs a marijuana delivery business, checks his delivery bag in Oakland, Calif. The City of Oakland created a “social equity” program similar to one being considered by Aurora lawmakers. The program would give the first delivery permits to those who live in parts of the city deemed disadvantaged. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

AURORA | Aurora city councilmembers gave first approval Monday to a “social equity” marijuana delivery plan, while also giving first approval to repeal the city’s contentious pit bull ban. 

Only councilmembers Dave Gruber and Francoise Bergan voted against the proposal to allow marijuana delivery within Aurora and to Aurora from other cities that allow it. The plan still requires another vote before becoming final. 

Aurora lawmakers are taking advantage of a statewide law allowing cities to approve and regulate marijuana delivery starting next month — and reserve the first delivery permits for so-called social equity applicants possibly affected by the War on Drugs. Only those applicants would be able to deliver marijuana for Aurora-based businesses for the first three years. 

The plans are intended to diversify the ranks of Colorado’s marijuana businesses, which are largely white-owned, although people of color have been disproportionately arrested for marijuana-based offenses. 

To snag a coveted delivery permit during those first three years, an applicant would have to prove 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.

Michael Diaz-Rivera, a teacher in Denver Public Schools, told city councilmembers Monday he will be applying for a social equity delivery license if the plan becomes law. A Black man and a local Black Lives Matter activist, Diaz-Rivera said he had been locked out of the legal marijuana industry after he was convicted of marijuana possession at age 19. 

Councilmember Dave Gruber raised concerns that delivery drivers with prior drug-related offenses might deal drugs on the side. City staffers told him deliveries will be highly regulated under the state and local laws. 

Earlier in the evening, a majority of lawmakers approved repealing the city’s pitbull ban — while not referring it to the voters. The move requires two more rounds of voting. 

The decision elicited fierce condemnations from Mayor Mike Coffman and councilmembers Francoise Bergan, Marsha Berzins and Dave Gruber. These lawmakers said they respected the will of voters in 2014 who declined to repeal the breed ban. In place since 2005, the ban applies now to three kinds of dogs: American pit bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers and Staffordshire bull terriers.

“I personally think that putting it back to the voters is the fair way to do that. Otherwise, you are overturning their vote,” Bergan said. 

Denver recently held an election to repeal a similar pit-bull ban there. Voters approved the repeal.

If the ban is repealed, Aurora residents could own these dog breeds if they’re registered properly with the city. The city’s new, sweeping “dangerous dog” rules would apply to these breeds and all others living in city limits. 

The resistance from four council members wasn’t enough to prevent the plan from moving forward, although Coffman affirmed he’ll ask the city council again to let voters decide. 

Berzins said voters watching the meeting should write down the names of councilmembers who wanted to repeal the ban themselves. 

Councilmember Juan Marcano and others said they’ve long enjoyed voter support to repeal the ban. 

“The city has changed a lot since 2014,” he said. “They want this to be overturned. And that’s where I stand.”

Because of the long debate, the council did not take first looks at a pair of immigration-minded proposals. 

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