Medical marijuana dispensaries in the high country about to get Colorado's blessing

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Despite rumors that state licenses wouldn't be issued until next year at the earliest, several medical marijuana clinic owners in the mountains say they have reached the final stages of the application process and are within weeks of getting the final okay from the Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division.

Last week, we reported that the city of Denver had just taken its first baby steps toward processing medical marijuana clinic applications -- and that's apparently preventing the dispensaries in question from receiving Colorado's stamp of approval. Such delays are not uncommon around the metro area, where municipalities are still trying to iron out issues involving zoning, fees and building codes.

But in smaller towns with fewer dispensaries -- and often a lot less municipal red tape -- that wasn't an issue. Several high country owners say they've done all they can and the ball is now in the state's court.

Stephanie Collins, owner of Mountain Medicinals in Idaho Springs, points out that she has been operating with local approval for nearly two years. She went through her exit interview with MMED officials last month, and on August 16, she received a letter from the MMED saying that she's been recommended for approval by the state. Collins says she is now waiting for a note telling her to submit her $6,500 fee -- the last hurdle before the state will issue a license.

The city clerk in Idaho Springs received a similar letter from the MMED, this one requesting final verification that Mountain Medicinals was clear with the city. The clerk says she responded quickly and assumes Mountain Medicinals will be licensed with the state soon. "They are fully compliant," she says, adding that the dispensary owners are "nice people" and "good to work with."

Leadville has two dispensaries, both operating with the required municipal licenses. According to Padriac Smith, Leadville's director of administrative services, the town has a rule on the books that waives fees for business and tax licenses for community clinics in commercial areas. The town determined that one dispensary was a health clinic, and it has been operating and paying city sales tax since November 2009.

The second dispensary is not in a commercial zone, but it was granted a conditional use permit and paid for its sales tax and business licenses. Both have gone through state exit interviews and are waiting for their licenses from the state.

Julie Postlethwait, MMED spokeswoman, was unable to give a time line last week for when the shops would receive their confirmation letter, but she confirmed that the shops were among the handful in the state that are close to completing their application process. Though she couldn't give a definite time line for when licenses would be issued, she shot down a rumor that licenses wouldn't be issued until 2012 and said it wouldn't be long before those dispensaries would receive final paperwork.

More from our Marijuana archive: "Medical marijuana dispensary security cameras key to busting Pagosa Springs burglary ring."

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