Denver's marijuana policy office and licensing department have worked together closely to implement retail cannabis regulations since recreational marijuana sales began in January 2014, and now the two departments have been merged. Pictured: The Denver skyline rises above Greenwerkz grow houses on the 800 block of Wyandot Street on Dec. 30, 2015 in Denver. (Denver Post file)

Denver marijuana policy office gets more entrenched in city’s operations

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock on Monday announced a reshuffling that will merge his groundbreaking marijuana policy shop into the Department of Excise and Licenses, with Ashley Kilroy serving as director of both.

The move elevates Kilroy, Hancock’s marijuana policy adviser, to the mayor’s cabinet, succeeding outgoing licensing executive director Stacie Loucks. It also places the Office of Marijuana Policy — created nearly three years ago amid the legalization of recreational marijuana sales — in a permanent home as Denver gets comfortable with regulating the world’s largest recreational marijuana market so far.

Denver marijuana policy adviser Ashley Kilroy. (Denver mayor's office)
Denver marijuana policy adviser Ashley Kilroy. (Denver mayor’s office)

Loucks, who has served as licensing director since early 2014, is stepping down Friday to spend more time with her family, including young children, the mayor’s office said. Kilroy starts in the expanded role next Monday.

In a statement, Hancock said Kilroy “has served this great city for a number of years in various capacities, most recently as our navigator in the uncharted waters of legal recreational marijuana. … Ashley has proven to be a steadfast, common-sense leader who builds partnerships and consensus. I’m proud to elevate her skill set and talent to the whole of our city’s business licensing processes.”

The marijuana policy office and licensing department have worked together closely to implement retail cannabis regulations since the sales authorized by Colorado’s Amendment 64 began in January 2014.

As of June, Denver was home to hundreds of recreational and medical marijuana stores, grow facilities, edibles manufacturers and labs at 460 distinct locations. Those included 136 shops offering both medical and retail sales, 64 standalone medical marijuana dispensaries and 13 standalone recreational stores.

The city still is working out kinks in its regulations and has faced criticism for the proliferation of marijuana businesses in low-income neighborhoods, owing largely to zoning issues.

But Denver also has been seen as a path-breaking model by some, and last week the city hosted industry representatives and government officials from around the world at its second annual Marijuana Management Symposium.

Kilroy has held several jobs in Denver city government, including work in the city attorney’s office, on the Career Service Board and as both deputy and interim manager of the Department of Safety.

“I look forward to building upon the great work that is occurring at Excise and Licenses to better serve our residents and businesses,” Kilroy said in Monday’s news release about the latest changes.

Loucks, while working with Kilroy on marijuana licensing, is credited with changes that cut waits at the licensing counter significantly for all license-seekers and for starting implementation of the city’s new short-term rental regulations.

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