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The New Colorado Marijuana Business Investor Options Bill: Frequently Asked Questions


By: Charles Feldmann, Esq.

What’s the law about?

In an effort to increase sources of capital for MJ business owners, on January 1, 2017, non-Colorado residents may invest in MJ business companies – a major change from the previous law, which stated that only individuals who had been residents of the state for 2+ years could have ownership options.


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Who can invest now?

Generally, any U.S. citizen that is either an individual or a closely held business entity. Businesses with these types of investors have different, stricter regulatory requirements than businesses that contain only Colorado residents, though, which set limitations on the number of investors and their active involvement with the company.

Who can’t invest in MJ Businesses?

Two major categories remain wholly excluded: publicly traded companies and international citizens or businesses.

Does the law change investment options for CO residents?

Yes, in a good way. While Colorado resident investors previously had to have been residents for two years prior to being able to invest in an MJ business, the new law drops this residency requirement to one year prior to the application date. However, even if an investor has relocated to Colorado but not yet established in-state residency for a year, he or he may still may utilize the investment options available to U.S. citizens.

I am an owner in a CO MJ Business company. Do I need to change any operations because of the laws?

As long as your operations legally comply with the current requirements, you do not need to alter any operations as a result of the new laws. The laws are intended to open doors for new capital and make very few changes to pre-existing, compliant businesses. However, it may be helpful to be aware that some procedural aspects will alter: specifically, the State Licensing Authority will change some aspects of licensing fees (“annual” has been removed from some of the pre-existing laws), and procedural aspects of background checks and fingerprinting may be adjusted as well.

What types of investors are allowed?

The new law makes room for several kinds, ranging from banks to individual employees of the company.

Investors fall within two categories: Indirect Beneficial Interest Owners (IBIOs) and Direct Beneficial Business Owners (DBIOs).

Who can be an Indirect Beneficial Business Owner (IBIO)?

  • Qualified Institutional Investors, which include banks, insurance and investment companies, investment advisers, collective trust funds, employee benefit plans and pension funds, state or federal pension plans, and any other entities the State Licensing Authority elects to authorize.
  • Permitted Economic Interest Holders
  • Licensed Employees Receiving Profit Shares from an Employee Benefit Plan
  • Intellectual Property Royalty Recipients
  • Other Similarly Situated Individuals/Entities, as determined by the State Licensing Authority.

What are the rules and regulations for IBIOs?

The State Licensing Authority will determine the parameters and qualifications for this category of investor. However, some limitations have already been established through the new bill. Here are the important ones:

  • A Qualified Institutional Investor (QII) is limited to owning 30% or less of a Colorado MJ business. The QII must also be approved, meaning that it meets the federal definitions for that entity. For example, a bank that wishes to invest must meet the federal Securities and Exchange Act definitions and requirements.
  • Intellectual Property Royalty Recipients must ensure that the royalty is associated with the use of intellectual property by a licensee, and that the royalty is commercially reasonable, which will be determined and defined by the State Licensing Authority.
  • Permitted Economic Interest Holders must be a natural person and a U.S. Citizen. Furthermore, while the law has changed many aspects of investor regulations, the definition of what constitutes a Permitted Economic Interest continues to include “any unsecured, convertible debt instrument, including option agreements, warrants, or any other rights to obtain an ownership interest” that is contingent on the holder qualifying and obtaining a license as an owner.
  • No publicly traded companies may invest in a Colorado MJ business.

Who can be a Direct Beneficial Interest Owner (DBIO)?

Direct Beneficial Business Owners may be any U.S. citizen or closely held business entities (that consist of individuals that are U.S. citizens) who own 5% or more of the MJ business. Additionally, the law creates a category for Qualified Limited Passive Investors, who own less than 5% of stock shares in the company.

What are the rules and regulations for DBIOs?

This depends largely on whether the MJ business consists entirely of Colorado residents who have been residents for one or more years prior to application, or if the business contains some out-of-state or non-resident investors. Also, no publicly traded companies may invest in a Colorado MJ business.

Colorado Resident-Only MJ Businesses:

  • An MJ business consisting entirely of investors that meet the 1+ year Colorado residency requirement prior to application may have an unlimited number of them, provided that all of the businesses DBIOs are within this category (no non-residents).
  • This category of investor does not have to undergo the Finding of Suitability application process prior to obtaining a license that is required for non-resident investors.

MJ Businesses Containing 1+ DBIOs Not Meeting One-Year Minimum CO Residency Requirements:

  • An MJ business that has one or more non-Colorado resident/out-of-state investors is generally limited to containing no more than 15 DBIOs total. However, in instances where a business wishes to obtain more than 15, the State Licensing Authority may review the request and increase the limit. This limitation includes all parent and subsidiary entities of the DBIOs. Grant of an increase depends on factors such as the market and availability of capital for the business.
  • At least one officer must have been a Colorado resident one or more years prior to application date.
  • All day-to-day operational control officers must have been Colorado residents one or more years prior to application date.

What do non-resident DBIOs need to do to invest?

If the investor wishes to be a Qualified Limited Passive Investor, he will have to participate in a limited initial background check. Should the check provide reasonable cause for further inquiry, a full background check may be required. In addition, further parameters and qualifications for this type of investor will be set by the State Licensing Authority.

All non-resident DBIOs (including Qualified Limited Passive Investors) must apply with the State Licensing Authority for a Finding of Suitability prior to applying for a license as a MJ business owner. Not competing this step prior to applying is grounds for denial of the license.

I have a non-Colorado resident who wants to invest in my company. What should I know?

The first step is identifying what type of investor an individual (or closely held business entity) wants to be. The potential investor should be aware that an application for a Finding of Suitability to the State Licensing Authority is mandatory, and a background check may be required. Upon approval of the Finding of Suitability, the investor will then have to apply for a license with the State Licensing Authority. Finally, as an owner, you are responsible for ensuring that the addition of this investor will not violate any of the requirements for DBIOs under the new law.

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