Marijuana: Bill that would transfer MMJ patient fees for drug counseling gutted

A bill that would have used $10 million in medical marijuana patient registration fees for drug-treatment programs has been gutted for the second year in a row. The Representative Beth McCann-sponsored House Bill 1238, would have transferred $10 million over the next four years from the medical marijuana program cash fund to the Colorado Department of Human Services, where it would have been earmarked for marijuana and prescription-drug abuse treatment programs. The current, amended version of the bill does nothing of the sort.

The initial proposal was nearly identical to a section of a bill that failed last year. It would have used patient money to not only fund drug treatment centers, but also to help pay for a computer system linking law enforcement with the confidential patient database.

Since its introduction this session, however, the language of HB-1238 has changed considerably, and the proposed money transfer was dropped entirely: Apparently someone had reminded lawmakers that the concept was blatantly illegal, as activists pointed out last year.

This information might have come from activist Richard Wainwright, who filed a complaint in Denver District Court on April 15 about the bill's original bill language. In the document, he notes that current Colorado law makes it clear that "transfer of funds for purposes other than direct or indirect administrative cost from the medical marijuana program cash fund is not permitted."

Two days later, the newly amended HB-1238 bill made its way to the full House. The summary of the current measure still mentions transferring money from the MMJ patient fund to treatment programs, but the actual bill no longer contains any such language. Instead, the reworked version would untether the state Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division and local municipalities.

Currently, the MMED has to wait until a municipality has finished licensing a medical marijuana business before the state can collect the business's Colorado fees. The revised bill would allow the state to collect fees and license medical marijuana businesses without waiting for cities and towns to go through their own processes first. The concept is to get money to the cash-strapped MMED quickly, so that it can keep up with licensing demands.

As it currently stands, the bill would also require the MMED and local licensing authorities to post lists of all businesses that have been accepted and denied licenses. The amended bill has passed through the House and now is headed to the Senate, where it has yet to be assigned to a committee.

More from our Marijuana archive: "Medical marijuana fees, bill prompt proposed class-action lawsuit."

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