When customers arrived at the Green Solutions cannabis dispensary in Edgewater, they were greeted by a colorful tent with a display of WANA Brands gummies and other fun games. What they didn’t expect was being asked, “Have you registered to vote?”
WANA Brands and the League of Women Voters have partnered to get more young people registered for the General Election in November. WANA has supported the League of Women Voters through donations in the past. But this is the first time the two organizations collaborated on a voter registration event in Colorado, according to event leaders.
WANA Senior Corporate Social Responsibility director Karla Rodriguez said she hopes to connect with young people at dispensaries. Data from Colorado’s Secretary of State show turnout for that demographic was low during this year’s primary election.
“We see this unique opportunity to connect and be that bridge between this younger demographic that has not been as engaged,” Rodrigez said.
Brian Holloway falls in that category. He moved to metro Denver from Kansas City two years ago and said he never got around to registering to vote in Colorado because he thought it would be difficult. But during Friday’s event, he found registering simple.
“It was super easy,” Holloway said. “They timed it. So, it was actually four minutes.”
The League of Women Voters has held voter registration drives throughout the country for 102 years, the League’s voter services co-chair Anne Duncan said. Their most successful drives have been at jails and prisons. During the 2020 General Election, the organization helped with in-person voting at Denver County jails as part of the Confined Voting Program, which ensures all eligible voters have access to register and participate in the election process.
Ducan said the League also hopes to register those who have been impacted by previous marijuana laws.
“We look for places where people may not be registered or they may have moved,” Duncan said. “When somebody is in jail for a misdemeanor, they can still vote.”
Social equity businesses have been a hot topic within the cannabis industry. To qualify for a social equity business license, Colorado residents must not have previously owned a cannabis business. They must reside for at least 15 years between 1980 and 2019 in an opportunity zone or a disproportionately-impacted area and have a marijuana conviction on their criminal record.
“There are a lot of ways to look at social equity and one of the most powerful ways to move the needle is through the power of voting and making your voice heard through that realm,” said Rodriguez, with WANA. “If you look at the zoning for dispensaries they’re often in redline areas.”
WANA and the League of Women Voters plan to hold voter registration drives at other cannabis dispensaries around metro Denver. They also plan to hold them at expungement clinics in September.
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