Medical marijuana firm's cost to comply with regs (and explain to officials what it does): $8K

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Green Mountain Harvest's Susan Chicovsky is proud of her status as owner of the first medical marijuana harvest and trim company to be fully compliant with Colorado regulations. But the process was neither easy nor inexpensive. She estimates that she's spent $8,000 getting right with the state -- a task made more challenging by the fact that officials had never heard of a business like hers.

"That was interesting," Chicovsky notes with a laugh. "My lawyer, Ann Toney, who's a medical marijuana lawyer, called Matt Cook" -- senior director of enforcement at Colorado's Department of Revenue -- "and afterward, she said, 'I don't think they're going to know what to do with you.'"

Granted, even some MMJ insiders may need some explanation before they can fully grasp Chicovsky's business model.

"I have a crew of experienced trimmers -- and companies hire us to come in and perform the trim process," she points out. "We go to grows after the plants have been cut down and take off the fan leaves and other leaves so we can have access to the medicine."

Having people with expertise tackle this chore is important, Chicovsky believes, "because otherwise, you can damage the product or not get as much." And customers have been very satisfied with her work to date, she adds. One dispensary that hired Green Mountain for a single job quickly arranged for the company to do all of its harvests from this point forward.

Chicovsky is a relative newcomer to the industry. She's run what she describes as a "private healing practice" for thirty years, and she's also a minister who performs wedding ceremonies for her own company. Then, in October, "a friend of mine came to me and said, 'You're honest, you have integrity. I want you to start a harvest company, so you can help us be compliant.'"

Indeed, new regulations require the close monitoring of MMJ amounts produced at grows -- and that's another service Green Mountain offers. "We track everything," she says. "And people need to get accustomed to that, because they're going to have to do it. It's very time-consuming, but it's such an important part of what we do. And being an independent contractor, if there are any questions about the numbers, the state will come to me. I'm a buffer."

Once Cook understood Green Mountain's approach, Chicovsky allows, he was very helpful: "He said, 'This is a whole new area we're just beginning to look at. It's a vital area in terms of compliance and revenue.'"

For Chicovsky, the next steps weren't cheap. Toney had multiple conversations with Cook in order to establish everything Green Mountain needed to do in order to meet requirements. "Come March or April, Matt said there will be occupational licenses, and now we have a head start on that. And that's not just for my business. Anyone who works with me has to get an occupational license and go through a criminal background check. They have to be 21, a Colorado resident for a certain amount of time -- they're still determining that -- and have no felonies whatsoever."

That's fine by Chicovsky, whose experience running her own business has convinced her that doing things by the book is far preferable to cutting corners. In the end, she spent "eight weeks and $8,000" in obtaining Colorado's blessing. But she's glad she's got it.

Contact Chicovsky at greenmtnharvestco@hotmail.com. Look below to read a letter from attorney Toney outlining the regulations that govern an MMJ harvest and trim company.

More from our Marijuana archive: "Medical marijuana regulations: Q&A with Matt Cook, the man behind the rules."

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