Last month, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment released statistics for the medical marijuana registry showing a roughly 20 percent decrease in patients from August to September.
At the time, it was anybody's guess as to what caused the drop off. But an announcement from the CDPHE may shed some light on the matter.
This week, the following was posted on the CDPHE website:
"The Registry is committed to maintaining a medical marijuana program that is of high integrity and in compliance with state laws. Over the past few months, we have been conducting an internal audit of our processes, policies, communication tools and forms.
In the normal course of administering the Medical Marijuana Registry, the Registry staff pays close attention to details of applications to ensure patients and physicians are within guidelines. If the Registry has reason to question whether a Physician Certification is in compliance, these applications may undergo additional steps in the review process. In some cases, the physician may be contacted to validate the Physician Certification and its process of completion. Currently 14 percent of applications are being delayed in review for verification of Physician Certifications."
The delay is nothing new, but the percentage of patients is -- and the numbers give us more insight into the number of overall applications. At the November 16 Board of Health meeting last year, CDPHE officials announced that roughly 3,200 patient applications were in limbo due in part because of issues with physicians' signatures. Today, CDPHE spokesman Mark Salley said that figure is up to about 4,000.
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According to our (admittedly junior-high level) math skills, this means there are somewhere in the neighborhood of 28,500 total patient applications going through the system right now in one way or another. That would account for all of the roughly 26,000 patients who seemingly dropped out of the program in one month, and then some.
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Presumably, about 24,500 applications aren't on hold. This volume of paperwork may explain why wait times for some people have been as long as two months.
No word on when the doctor issues will be cleared up. But Salley says the CDPHE is still waiting for physician verification on "a portion" of the above applications. Last month, officials said they hoped to have answers by the start of December. No such luck.
More from our marijuana archive: "Medical marijuana: 3,200 patient applications in limbo, may be tossed due to technicalities" ; "Medical marijuana registry drops by 26,000 patients in 3 months, says health department"