Medical marijuana: Red card wait times increasing?

A year ago, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment was so backlogged with medical-marijuana license applications that patients had to wait as long as eight months after filing paperwork before they got their red cards.

And now, as this bubble of patients rises to the surface to renew those licenses, are there once again delays at the state's Medical Marijuana Registry? That depends on who you talk to.

Mark Salley, CDPHE spokesman, acknowledges that his department has seen a lot of registry re-applications from cardholders who were a part of the big rush last year. But he says staffers haven't had nearly the number of problems with processing this time around. He estimates that the office is currently averaging about a two-week turnaround time. At most, the cards are taking a month to process, but nothing going over 35 days, he said.

"It was this time of the year that we got that influx," he said. "But there is no backlog. The vast majority are being processed on schedule."

But talk to dispensary owners, doctors and medical marijuana patients and you'll get a different story. I've received numerous newsletter e-mails from dispensaries over the last month with stories of patients waiting five weeks or more for their renewal. And I was told by my physician not to expect my card by the time my current one expires.

Unlike first-time applicants, who can use their doctor's paperwork to purchase medicine from dispensaries until their red card arrives in the mail, renewing patients can only rely on their red card. According to the CDPHE: " Renewal applications cannot be used as evidence of registration for medical marijuana purchases." That means some patients are going to be left in a gap where they can't purchase meds -- a problem I've heard firsthand while visiting dispensaries over the past few weeks.

To be fair, the CDPHE suggests you renew your card well in advance of the old one's expiration to prevent this problem.

What about our experiences at Mile Highs and Lows? Our marijuana intern, Sensi Skywalker, waited about a month for her renewal to arrive in the mail, and I've been waiting for just over two weeks as of today. Last year, it took four months to recieve my renewal, so I guess just about anything will be better than that. But if Salley is correct, I shouldn't be waiting much longer.

That said, I'll still be stocking up on chronic this week, just in case.

*note: this post originally incorrectly stated that renewals could be used to purchase medicine. It has been changed to reflect the correct information.

More from our Marijuana archive: "Medical marijuana card fees to drop, if that's okay with you."

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