DENVER — A Denver business owner is expected to be the first Black person to receive a marijuana business license through the city's marijuana social equity program.
The program started in April 2021 and is designed to bring more equitable access to the local cannabis industry, which helped Curtis Washington receive tentative approval for his project.
Washington owns Quebec Discount Liquor in southeast Denver and is in the middle of making a major transformation to his business.
"We thought that we could take some of the excess space in the liquor store and convert it to retail space as a cannabis retail facility," Washington said.
The construction would technically make it two separate businesses, but it will be the first of its kind in Denver, according to Eric Escudero, a spokesman for the Denver Department of Licensing and Excise.
"It's an unusual application — the first of its kind in the history of Denver — in that it's taking advantage of rules that allow a liquor store to be next to a marijuana store if there is a wall separating them," Escudero said. "They're a completely different business. So it's going to provide some extra convenience for people who may want to have a beer and consume cannabis. But most importantly, this is a great opportunity to see our social equity program expand with another licensee.
Escudero said if approved, Washington will be the first African American in the history of the social equity program to receive the license, contingent on passing inspections.
"He is the first African American in the history of our social equity program dedicated to bringing more equitable access to the industry to get tentative approval for a license," Escudero said.
For Washington, it's been a humbling journey.
"I hope I've demonstrated that it can be done. The program works ... put the work in and you can get it done," Washington said.
A social equity event on Saturday will start at 10 a.m. at the Commons on Champa, at 1245 Champa St. While registration is now closed, Escudero said the city and state will still allow anyone who shows up without registering to attend. About 400 people are currently registered.