Unlike so many patients stuck in medical marijuana limbo, I received my red card in the mail this week -- 29 days from the date I sent my information and a check for $90 to the Colorado Department of Health and Environment. It was postmarked a week after it was issued, which could be the fault of the post office, so I'll let it slide. But I don't think for a second that things are okay because my card came on time.
Meanwhile, scores of patients have been telling us here at Mile Highs and Lows about their several-month wait times and the complete lack of communication from the CDPHE about anything related to red card processing. Several commenters say they've called in to ask questions and have been told there is a delay -- but they aren't told what that delay is. When they call back for more information, they are told not to call back again for several weeks.
Take Kyle, a budtender over at Serenity Moon, the dispensary I reviewed earlier this month. The guy works around herb all day long, but he can't legally go home with any from his shop because his card expired. He says he's been waiting more than seventy days for the registry to get its act together and has made several calls. But thus far, he's only received the runaround.
"It got to the point where I had to go back to my arthritis doctor and get back on part of the pain meds," he says. "This is taking way too long, but I don't want to break the rules. They are forcing me back to something that is horrible for me."
We got some insight about the delay on Wednesday, as Ron Hyman, the Office of Vital Statistics and Medical Marijuana Registry's registrar and director, told the Board of Health that there are about 3,200 patient applications on hold at the CDPHE for what some speculate could be a major problem with physicians' signatures. Hyman indicated that things won't start to be sorted out until the beginning of December at the earliest. To make matters worse, patients who are stuck in the holding patter can't simply re-apply -- they have to wait until their application on hold is denied.
Last year, when renewal applications were still accepted at MMCs after 35 days and CDPHE delays were taking months to process, patients got what amounted to an extension on their license. Now, with that rule no longer in effect, delays like these mean time without access to meds for thousands of Coloradans. As CDS manager Jake Browne pointed out in the comments section the other day: "How much worse does this need to get before the CDPHE holds an emergency meeting?"
I definitely understand where he's coming from. As a medical marijuana patient, it's hard to ignore issues like this when even Board of Health members question how well the registry is communicating, as they did at the Wednesday meeting.
The public is confused, and the answers patients have been getting from the department aren't doing much to make sense of things. With the public trust in its ability to perform rapidly declining for the second year in a row, the CDPHE should strive to be truly transparent instead of just talking about it.
William Breathes is the pot pen name for our Medical Marijuana Dispensary Critic, his dispensary reviews run weekly in our marijuana blog, Mile Highs and Lows. Keep up with all your marijuana news at The Latest Word.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.