DENVER — Almost one year after the City of Denver legalized marijuana delivery, just 19 of Denver’s 206 dispensaries provide the service.
“Sadly, it's been really quiet,” said Eric Escudero, Denver Department of Excise and Licenses spokesperson. “We're really working hard to try to make sure more people, especially those who are negatively impacted by prohibition, have an opportunity to benefit economically from cannabis legalization.”
Escudero said for years, dispensary owners have told his department they wanted to add a delivery option to their list of services. Escudero said with equity in mind, city leaders drafted a bill to legalize marijuana delivery.
“We’re requiring stores to work with social equity transporters, delivery companies and unfortunately, so far, not many stores have stepped up to the plate to show their support for social equity by getting a delivery permit and working with these companies,” Escudero said. “These are people — many of them who had previous marijuana arrests for something that's legal now.”
Escudero said delivery offers social equity applicants a less expensive option for breaking into the now well-established marijuana business. But delivery company owners need dispensaries to participate.
“As far as trying to understand why these dispensaries aren't working with these social equity delivery companies, we know that profit matters to every business. So maybe it's a profit issue,” Escudero said.
Terrapin Care Station is a dispensary that has yet to offer delivery in Denver. Spokesperson Peter Marcus said his company has no issues with profit or partnering with a social equity business.
“Only reason we aren't delivering in Denver yet is we just haven't figured out the logistics of it yet. We are exploring it very seriously and we will be looking at opportunities there,” Marcus said. “I think part of the issue is also you need to retrain consumers thinking around cannabis. This has been underground for so long. The concept that you can go online and purchase marijuana to be delivered to your house — I don't think people have fully come around to yet. So part of our job is going to be helping with the marketing and getting the word out.”
Terrapin does offer delivery through a social equity company in Aurora.
But Marcus said another challenge to delivery is navigating every city’s specific requirements.
“Some cities that opt into delivery will allow delivery from outside the city. But oftentimes we see it just locked into the city itself,” Marcus said. “You're talking about wanting to cross over into multiple jurisdictions. So, that is difficult, but it doesn't make it impossible.”
Terrence Hewing, chief operating officer for High Demand Delivery, said he’s reached out to 60 Denver dispensaries seeking partnerships.
“I've gotten all the way to 'Oh yeah, sounds like a good idea.'… Then never hear from them again,” Hewing said.
Hewing said dispensary owners are reluctant to enter into third-party partnerships for two reasons.
“No business owners want to be told what to do. Also, social equity has a stigma attached to it. They think we are criminals,” Hewing said.
As for the issue of cutting into a dispensary owners’ profit, Hewing said that isn’t the case.
“I've done the numbers and it's cheaper for the dispensary to use the third-party delivery company,” Hewing said. “You have to spend multiple thousands of dollars on licensing, you have to pay multiple thousands of dollars on technology, you have to spend multiple thousands of dollars on vehicles. So, it’s very costly.”
Hewing said he was finally able to partner with Marcus’s company, Terrapin.
But Canna-Couriers Co-Owner Shanda Le Compte is still waiting for an opportunity.
“There are so many dispensaries in Denver that are able to offer delivery to their customers, and they're just choosing not to,” Le Compte said.
Le Compte said seven months after getting her delivery license, she’s struggling to stay in business.
“Next September, we have to renew our licensing and there are hefty fees that come along with renewing. So that's kind of discouraging, knowing that we're not making any money because we don't have any contracts,” Le Compte said.
Le Compte said she was born and raised in Denver and just wants a chance to take part in the booming industry that started in her hometown.