The Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division of the Department of Revenue is strapped for cash, and the bare-bones staff is just barely keeping up with the task the division was given in July 2010: to license dispensaries in the state.
As we've reported over the past few months, this charge has been a catch-22 for the MMED: The self-supported agency needs licensing fees to help cover its costs, but the initially slow intake of applications combined with a delay in licensing (and licensing fees) for shops awaiting approval from their local governments has starved the division of revenue. As a result, it's also short-handed. According to a post on its website late last week, the soonest a medical marijuana dispensary staffer can expect to get an appointment is February 2013. The site also notes that a planned program to register state caregivers, the location of their grows and a plant count in a private registry is not yet available.
And earlier this month,CBS4 discovered the division has more leased vehicles than it does employees. There are currently around dozen people on the MMED payroll, down from the original 37.
In the two years the division has been in existence, the MMED has been able to get only a limited number of shops licensed and off its docket -- at least for another year, until renewals start to come up. Though division officials cite lack of local approval as the largest obstacle in getting shops through the state process, the state had issued licenses to just under 180 medical marijuana centers as of August 14. That's far fewer than have gotten local approval around the state.
Most of those licensed by the MMED fall in the type 1 category, with 300 patients or fewer; only four centers serving more than 501 patients have been approved so far. The state has also licensed 22 infused-product manufacturers, which includes hash-making outfits as well as edibles companies.
Continue reading to see the MMED dispensaries list. Denver dispensaries have collected the most state licenses so far, with 78 centers and marijuana-infused-product manufacturers. Colorado Springs comes in second, with about 45 centers and MIPs within its boundaries. Boulder ranks third, with fourteen licensed centers and MIPs. The rest of the licensees are scattered around the seven-county metro region and the state as a whole.
MMED spokeswoman Julie Postlethwait says that ultimately, there will be more licensed centers than the ones currently listed as approved. As of now, there is no list of denied centers -- and no estimate of when the list of approved licenses will be updated. However, patients and licensed centers can continue to legally do business with unlicensed shops under state law so long as the unlicensed shops are currently in the application process and have not been denied.
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According to a note that Twirling Hippy Confections owner Jessica LeRoux received from the MMED's Laura Harris, Postlethwait is handling that list -- and due to staffing cutbacks, she has been assigned other duties in addition to those of the division's public information officer. Harris also says she is unsure when the MMED will finish processing applications, but licensing will continue as long as it takes.
Here's the current incomplete list.
More from our Marijuana archive: "Medical marijuana: Office of Excise & Licensing tackles mountain of MMC applications."