Daniel Morgan knew he was in a pinch.
Getting caught with cannabis, in Wyoming more than a decade ago no less, was going to cause problems for the future he had planned as a business student at the University of Denver.
“Applying for jobs while I was still (in school), it was definitely a large concern, having to disclose that to a bunch of employers,” he said. “That’s kind of what motivated me to kind of stick with the cannabis business. I’m just feeling more comfortable with that conviction.”
Upon graduation, Morgan said the possession ticket he received more than a decade ago prevented him from getting entry-level jobs. Although it was not a felony offense, it was enough to deter potential employers.
Still, that fateful night became the rudder that steered Morgan to his new career in cannabis, an industry he has worked in since his citation.
“I pretty much started off as, you know, a budtender making $9 an hour, no tips,” Morgan said, “and then I got a job at a (growhouse) where I was washing pots, transplanting, cleaning … and over the last 12 years I’ve done probably everything in the business, and owning my own dispensary has always been my dream.”
Morgan said he wants his business to be part of the community. He said he’s committed to donating $10,000 annually to a scholarship fund for North High School students. He said he’s also developed a “social responsibility giveback program” that would donate 25 cents off each product to a charity, such as Anno.
“I have a lot of industry experience. This whole process has been very difficult and complex from finding a location to dealing with buildout to going through inspections,” Morgan said. “Something that I want to do is start a mentorship program to help other social equity applicants.”
Although Social Cannabis was the first social equity applicant for a retail marijuana store, and the first to open, there are at least 11 more that are looking for license approval, according to the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses.
Two of those license applications are in the Northwest Denver area, one at 2005 Bryant St. in Jefferson Park and another at 2885 W.44th Ave. in Sunnyside.
Social Cannabis opened April 16 and held a grand opening a few days later at its 5068Federal Blvd. location.
“There’s been a lot of buzz and people have just been waiting for us to open,” Morgan said. “The dispensary has had great sales, so it’s super exciting.”
Until July 2027, only cannabis businesses that qualify for the social equity program can apply for licenses to open brick-and-mortar dispensaries, cultivation sites, and hospitality businesses. Transportation services are also restricted to social equity applicants until July 2024.
The social equity program is designed by state statute to give priority to applicants or their immediate family members who have either been arrested or cited for cannabis offenses when the substance was illegal under Colorado law. It also provides avenues for people who have lived in historically low-income area.
“I’ve been in a lot of talks with people with transportation licenses and things like that, but I’ve just been so busy trying to just focus on the store getting everything open,” Morgan said. “But, yeah, absolutely I definitely want to partner with somebody who has one of those social equity licenses in the future.”
Social Cannabis is planning to have eight employees initially, Morgan said, but there could be opportunities to hire more in the future.
Morgan hasn’t opened his business without some controversy, however.
A lawsuit filed in February in Denver County District Court accuses Morgan of breaching his non-compete clause from when he was working for a brand now owned by parent company Schwazze.
Morgan declined to comment on the outstanding litigation.