The delivery of recreational marijuana, now allowed in Colorado with local municipality approval, has yet to be introduced into the local marketplace, but a California company’s expansion into Aspen could change that.
The Green Dragon chain of marijuana dispensaries is going through a change of ownership that will put its 16 Colorado stores under the umbrella of California-based Eaze Technologies, a platform that specializes in cannabis delivery. Included in the line of Green Dragon stores is the one in Aspen that opened in the Hyman Avenue mall in March 2014.
“In terms of Aspen, our expertise is in delivery, we’ve completed over 8 million deliveries, so we absolutely look forward to being able to deliver in Aspen and Colorado,” said Eaze company spokeswoman Elizabeth Ashford by telephone last week. “Everything we do is in compliance with local and state regulations, and it will be in Aspen when it gives the go-ahead.”
For now, however, there are local and state marijuana regulations Eaze Technologies and Green Dragon — both of which are privately held — must clear to close the deal before they consider delivering cannabis products to residences and businesses. In addition to the ownership change of the Colorado dispensaries, Green Dragon’s stores in Florida, where the company expanded into earlier this year, are also part of the deal. All stores will continue to operate under the Green Dragon name, according to company officials.
In Aspen, the Local Licensing Authority — the volunteer body that approves liquor and marijuana licenses and ownership transfers — will meet Dec. 7 to cover an agenda that includes the review and approval of a Eaze Technologies’ application for a change of ownership of the Green Dragon. Similar procedures are playing out in other local governments in Colorado where Green Dragons facilities are located.
“It’s technically an acquisition because they’re the bigger company,” said Alex Levine, chief development of Green Dragon, which started in 2009 and changed ownership in 2016. “And functionally it’s like a merger, and basically in Colorado, it’s approved at the state level but every single municipality (where Green Dragon facilities are located) has to approve it. We have a lot of different licensees in cities and towns, and that’s the process it’s always been.”
All of the currently 17 marijuana-delivery licenses in Colorado are associated with businesses in the Boulder-Denver area, according to the state revenue department.
Delivery became legal in Denver in April when its city council approved a bill that included the allowance of public smoking lounges. And Green Dragon started delivery in September through its Aurora location.
Aspen City Council has yet to entertain approving marijuana delivery, which would require passing an ordinance, according to the Colorado Marijuana Rules under the purview of the Marijuana Enforcement Division, which is part of the Department of Revenue.
Rules also state marijuana-delivery vehicles cannot have exterior markings noting their line of business, while vehicles also must be equipped with a security alarm system and video surveillance equipment. Law also limits the amount of marijuana products in tow.
“An enclosed Delivery Motor Vehicle shall not contain more than $10,000.00 in retail value of Regulated Marijuana. A Delivery Motor Vehicle that is not enclosed shall not contain more than $2,000.00 in retail value of Regulated Marijuana,” according to state law, which also prohibits deliveries from midnight to 8 a.m.
In the meantime, the deal between Eaze and Green Dragon will result in more than 40 “delivery and storefront retail locations and serve markets with a combined value of nearly $10 billion,” according to an Eaze company new release announcing the deal in August.
Eaze, out of the Bay Area, originally started as a delivery service, then morphed into a delivery-dispensary business in 2019, according to Ashford.
“We work on partnerships and that includes we touch the plant,” she said.
Eaze’s mobile app requires users to provide a driver’s license or another form of proper ID to register, as well as a selfie photo as part of the vetting process. The legal age to buy and consume recreational marijuana is 21 in Colorado.
Sales of marijuana, both recreational and legal, totaled $8.9 million in Aspen from January through September, according to the city finance department. That figured paced 1.2% ahead of the first nine months of 2020, yet was down 8.1% from the pre-pandemic year of 2019.
Some of that decrease can be attributed to international travel bans due to the pandemic. With many of those bans lifted in November — though with news of another variant on last week, things could change — operators are hopeful business will return to previous levels.
As well, “people were spending money on essential businesses but not just cannabis,” Levine said, still noting that Green Dragon’s overall business this year is up.
As a result of the pandemic, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis also approved a law allowing restaurants to deliver alcohol.
Recreational marijuana was legalized in Colorado in 2012, with the first state-licensed sales taking place in 2014.