Laura Kriho.
Laura Kriho.

Medical marijuana: $90 license fee too high for indigent patients & everyone else, advocate says

Back in August, medical marijuana advocates protested when Governor Bill Ritter proposed using $9 million in MMJ fees to help plug a budget hole. No doubt this topic will rise again at 9:30 a.m. this morning, when a board of health public hearing will address the question of lowering license fees from $90 to $10 for indigent patients. But Cannabis Therapy Institute's Laura Kriho would like to go further.

"I think it's more an issue of lowering the fees for everybody, and not having to have an indigent-patient standard," she maintains. "It should be $10 for everybody."

In her view, "It's important to lower the fees, so the state isn't tempted to steal all the extra money out of the registry. A clause was put in the constitution specifically to prevent the state from taking the money and putting it into the general fund."

According to her, the $90 license figure was chosen "at a time when they thought only a few thousand people would sign up for the registry" -- which turned out to be a low-ball figure if ever there was one. The MMJ registry patient total blew past 100,000 in July, and the numbers continue to grow. She adds that "the large surplus shows that clearly the state is charging too much."

In Kriho's view, the change should be made "by an emergency rule, because they like to use emergency rules" -- likely a reference to an attempted board of health regulation change regarding caregivers that was tossed by a judge last year. "And this actually is an emergency. When we have the governor's hand in the pot ready to yank more money out, and more money going into it every day, we clearly don't need to fees to be as high as they are."

The board of health will also hear comments about the difficulty of adding conditions to a list of those approved for medical marijuana treatment -- an issue that's gotten more attention following its rejection of petitions regarding Tourette's Syndrome and post-traumatic-stress disorder. Kriho would like some changes in this area, too, arguing that the board of health in general, and outgoing Colorado chief medical officer Ned Calonge in particular, have "been very hostile to the medical marijuana program from the beginning."

Page down to read the Cannabis Therapy Institute release about today's advisory committee meeting.

Board of Health Hearing on Wednesday

CTI Demands Board of Health Lower Medical Marijuana Patient Fee

Public Hearing on Indigent Standard on Wednesday

Denver -- The Cannabis Therapy Institute has sent a letter to the Colorado Board of Health demanding that they lower the patient fee of $90 to $10 for all patients and is encouraging patients and supporters to attend the Board of Health public hearing this Wednesday to testify in favor of lower patient fees.

The annual patient registry fee was initially set at $90 after Amendment 20 passed in 2000 based on the estimate that only a few hundred patients a year would use the registry. However in the past year, there have been over 100,000 new applicants, far surpassing the original estimate upon which the $90 fee was based.

On Wednesday, the Board of Health will hold a public hearing to address two rulemaking changes regarding the medical marijuana program. The Board will make changes on how new debilitating medical conditions are added to the list of qualifying conditions. The Board will also discuss setting a standard for indigent patients for the purposes of waiving the $90 annual application fee.

Despite intense lobbying by Sensible Colorado and other groups to the Board of Health to set a reasonable standard for indigent patients, the Board of Health's proposed rules would only allow patients to qualify for indigent status if they are "over 65, blind, disabled (according to rigid SSI standards), or whose net income is less than $903 a month and on food assistance." http://sensiblecolorado.org/

CTI is encouraging patients, caregivers and other advocates to contact the Board of Health and demand that they lower the patient fee to $10 for all patients. Article XVIII, Section 14 (3) (i) of the Colorado Constitution (Colorado's Medical Marijuana Amendment) clearly states that the medical marijuana Registry fees shall only go to pay "any direct or indirect administrative costs" of the program. This language was included precisely because the authors wanted to prevent the government from charging exorbitant fees to patients. The fees were only meant to cover the costs of the program.

The Registry fund currently has a surplus of over $9 million and there is at least another $6 million in uncashed checks in applications that have yet to be processed. In August, Colorado Governor Bill Ritter expressed his intention to steal $9 million out of the patient registry fund and transfer it to the state's General Fund to help alleviate budget shortfalls in other areas of government. http://www.cannabistherapyinstitute.com/news/ritter.steal.cashfund.html

The Constitution states that they registry fees are only for administrative costs of the program. If the Board of Health will not act to stop the illegal diversion of money out of the patient fund, they must act immediately with emergency rules that lower the patient fees to $10 to prevent the surplus of money from continuing to increase. The Board of Health is illegally charging fees in excess of those necessary to run the Registry program. This theft of patient money must end.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

1) Attend the public hearing and testify for a lowering of patient fees for all patients Date: Wed., October 20, 2010 Time: 9:30 am Sabin-Cleere Conference Room Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Bldg. A, First Floor 4300 Cherry Creek Drive South, Denver, CO 80246,

Click here for full meeting agenda: http://www.cdphe.state.co.us/op/bh/agendas/BOHOctober20AgendaAPPROVED.pdf

2) Submit your comments in writing. By law, the Board of Health must accept all written comments up to the time of the public hearing.

Colorado Board of Health 4300 Cherry Creek Drive South EDO-A5 Denver, CO 80246-1530 FAX: 303-691-7702 E-mail: cdphe.edobohcomments_indigencystandards@state.co.us

Send a copy of any correspondence to: info@cannabistherapyinstitute.com

LETTER TO BOARD OF HEALTH

October 18, 2010

Dear Board of Health:

Please consider this request to immediately initiate emergency rulemaking procedures that will lower the $90 annual medical marijuana patient registration fee to $10.

As you know, the annual patient registry fee was initially set at $90 after Amendment 20 passed in 2000 based on the estimate that only a few hundred patients a year would use the registry. However in the past year, there have been over 100,000 new applicants, far surpassing the original estimate upon which the $90 fee was based.

Article XVIII, Section 14 (3) (i) of the Colorado Constitution (Colorado's Medical Marijuana Amendment) clearly states that the medical marijuana Registry fees shall only go to pay "any direct or indirect administrative costs" of the program. This language was included precisely because the authors wanted to prevent the CDPHE from charging exorbitant fees to patients. The fees were only meant to cover the costs of the program.

The Registry fund currently has a surplus of over $9 million and there is at least another $6 million in uncashed checks in applications that have yet to be processed. In August, Governor Bill Ritter expressed his intention to steal $9 million out of the patient registry fund and transfer it to the state's General Fund to help alleviate budget shortfalls in other areas of government.

The Constitution states that they registry fees are only for administrative costs of the program. If the Board of Health will not act to stop the illegal diversion of money out of the patient fund, they must act immediately with emergency rules that lower the patient fees to $10 to prevent the surplus of money from continuing to increase. The Board of Health is illegally charging fees in excess of those necessary to run the Registry program.

Please rectify this situation immediately.

More from our Marijuana archive: "New Colorado record: 1,650 medical-marijuana applications in one day."

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