DENVER — On the same day many Coloradans celebrate cannabis, a bill that aims to remove barriers for people with past convictions related to marijuana cleared the state Senate.
Senate Bill 23-265 would protect anyone in Colorado applying for a license, certificate, or registration in a profession or occupation within the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) from being denied based solely on a civil or criminal judgment related to the consumption, possession, cultivation, or processing of marijuana.
“DORA is our agency that regulates professional licenses. Everything from optometrists to nurse practitioners, you name it," said Representative Marc Snyder (D), one of the sponsors of the legislation. “Trying to get more people, eligible people, into the workforce, and looking to remove barriers that are unnecessary, and have a real hindrance to people in getting new opportunities.”
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The bipartisan legislation would apply for cannabis convictions from both within Colorado and from other states.
“It's part of that greater movement to recognize that the war on drugs, and a lot of the criminalization that we had before, has kind of reached its expiration date," said Snyder. “It does have relevancy to the social equity movement, which is also basically designed to ease the burden and rehabilitate the records of people that were also disproportionately impacted by the so called war on drugs.”
Michael Diaz-Rivera is one of the recipients of a social equity license, and now owns his own marijuana delivery company called Better Days Delivery. When he was 19, Diaz-Rivera said he was selling weed as a way of survival and was charged with a felony.
“I know what it's like to have opportunities closed in my face just because of a felony. And I know that I'm much more than that," said Diaz-Rivera. “As somebody that loves this plant [cannabis] and has had my life dragged through the dirt because of it, it gives me hope that others won't have to go through the same things... Times are changing, and that's why in my business, we say better days are on the way because the worst days are behind us."
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The bill was passed out of the Senate Thursday on its third reading. It now moves to the House of Representatives.