Cannabis Social Equity Technical Assistance

Because of federal cannabis prohibition, cannabis businesses often cannot obtain a traditional bank loan for startup costs, and owners of cannabis businesses cannot deduct their business expenses on their taxes as a typical entrepreneur can. Access to the industry is thus limited to individuals who have capital to invest or alternative resources for startup funds, and substantial industry-specific technical knowledge is critical to business success.

Recognizing these barriers, the City and County of Denver is extending its social equity efforts by providing training to aspiring social equity cannabis entrepreneurs. Through this program, the city hopes to set standards for equitable access to this billion-dollar industry for all. 



This program is specifically designed to boost ownership among individuals disproportionately impacted by marijuana prohibition and enforcement. Funded by $500,000 of the city's cannabis sales tax revenues, the program seeks to train and elevate Denver residents who meet the State of Colorado's definition of a social equity applicant in the cannabis industry.  

The 10-week curriculum will include subject matter experts on topics such as the history and politics of the industry, compliance, delivery, and hospitality as well as marketing and best practices.

The city has contracted The Color of Cannabis, a local organization experienced in helping cannabis newcomers understand and navigate entry into the industry, to facilitate implementation of the program. 


Following the state definition of a social equity applicant, Denver is seeking aspiring social equity cannabis entrepreneur applicants who meet at least one of the following criteria:

  1. Resided for at least 15 years between the years 1980 and 2010 in a census tract designated as an Opportunity Zone or Disproportionate Impacted Area; or
  2. The applicant or applicant’s parent, legal guardian, sibling, spouse, child, or minor in their guardianship was arrested for a marijuana offense, convicted of a marijuana offense, or was subject to a civil asset forfeiture related to a marijuana investigation; or
  3. The applicant’s household income in the year prior to application did not exceed 50% of the state’s median income as measured by the number of persons in the household.


  • The program is accepting applications for its second 2022 cohort 
  • Deadline to apply is Saturday, October 29, 2022 
  • Submit your application via the online portal 


Week 1: The Policy of Pot

This module includes high-level instruction on state and local ordinances and the importance of understanding the laws that govern the industry.

Week 2: Know Your Regulators

This class showcases the importance of participating in the rulemaking process. Instructors will connect the importance of the legacy market evolving into a more regulated industry.

Week 3

Responsible Vendor Training- Sell-SMaRT
Learn how to foster good public health and compliance behaviors for your staff and business. 

METRC is the most trusted and experienced provider of cannabis regulatory systems in the country.

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)
The class provides a high-level overview of how to create and define SOP’s to meet compliance standards.

Week 4: Marijuana Infused Products (MIP)

This course provides an overview of these type of cannabis products.

Week 5: Horticulture & Grown Tour

Get up close and personal with the plant in this Cultivation session

Week 6

Full view of financial considerations, projected sales numbers and market research around trends in consumer behavior.

High Demand Delivery
Learn how delivery is a new opportunity for social equity applicants in the City of Denver. 

Hospitality-Kush & Canvases
Real-time case study instruction of a successful cannabis business

Week 7: Public Relations and Best Practices in Cannabis Marketing

Public Relations training and education, strategies on communication, press releases, branding and messaging to reach your audience.

Week 8

Tax Code 280e
Overview of tax code 280e 

Real Estate
Class focuses on the local real estate market and identifying a suitable location for the business.

Week 9

Venture Capitalist (VC) pros will provide advice and support at this critical juncture in the business owner’s launch plan.

Overview of this key aspect of setting up the business.

Banking a Cannabis Business
Safe Harbor Financial, the preeminent credit union for cannabis businesses in the country, will provide an overview of this business aspect.

Week 10: Business Development Plan

Participants will review their business plans through one-on-one coaching to prepare them for business plan completion and launch to market.