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    Colorado Medical Marijuana License Fees Collections Drop

Many of the staff at the medical marijuana enforcement division at the Department of Revenue will be faced with reassignment this year due to a shortage in medical marijuana license collections from applicants around the state. Although approximately $418,750 in fees were collected this fiscal year, the state had budgeted approximately $5.7 million. Unable to meet their quota, the department has been forced to reassign 17 of their 37 division employees to other departments.

The licensing fees the state depends upon come from medical marijuana dispensaries in Colorado. State licensing fees can range from $2,750 to $14,000, depending on the type and size of the business. Those individuals who work at these businesses are also required to pay $250 for a state background check to be sure they are eligible to work with medical marijuana in the state.

Although approximately 817 applications have been sent to the department this year, only 81 dispensaries were actually issued licenses. The agency also issues only six licenses for makers of marijuana-infused products such as brownies out of nearly 322 applications they received before August 2010. Although some licenses were rejected due to applicants not meeting criteria, many more just simply haven’t been processes and the state admits that they have a backlog.

A revenue spokesman, Mark Couch, explained that the decline in license applications can be attributed to a state moratorium on medical marijuana licenses as well as local licensing taking longer than expected to process. Those opening a medical marijuana dispensary are supposed to pay local licensing fees before they pay the state licensing fee. The moratorium that representative Couch refers to on new marijuana businesses in Colorado is to end this summer.

One of the biggest problems, as Couch points out, is that the medical marijuana enforcement division is cash funded and when the fees do not come in, cutbacks have to be made. These cutbacks seriously affect those businesses who are striving to be in clear and strict compliance with state laws. With less staff to process applications, these businesses are in danger of falling out of compliance, which results in the further danger of them being shut down.

Many medical marijuana businesses in Colorado make a concerted effort to keep up with licensing fees and feel that the state must find a way to process these applications in a more efficient manner. These cutbacks are not the only ones the state has had to deal with. Another division within the department that regulates auto sales was also forced to make drastic cutbacks several years ago when the sale of cars dropped dramatically.

A spokesman for the Cannabis Alliance For Regulation And Education stated their frustration recently in an e-mail on the subject, saying people running a medical marijuana business in Colorado are unable to run their businesses legally and efficiently when state agencies are going belly up. This is making compliance a serious issue for many.

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