Medical marijuana registry delays no more? Health dept. says patients get IDs in 35 days

In the face of 100,000-plus medical marijuana registry applications over the past year, the state's MMJ identification verification process slowed to an agonizing seven- or eight-month turnaround, triggering outcry from the marijuana community. Now, the health department says the backlog is gone and applicants are finally getting their cards within the 35-day timetable required by law.

"We are turning around medical marijuana registry applications within the 35-day window," reports Mark Salley, spokesman for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. "We are essentially caught up on the backlog."

That's quite an accomplishment, considering that as of this past July, the health department still had 73,000 applications stuffed into storage closets waiting to be processed. How'd the agency pull it off? Well, the 56 temporary employees the state hired over the past year to handle the processing surely helped, as did the health department's decision to outsource some of the work to Integrated Documents Solution (which is a branch of Colorado's Department of Personnel & Administration and not a private company, as some people have feared).

While there are still scattered reports of patients waiting more than 35 days for their license, Salley thinks those applications may be among those that were set aside or rejected because they accompanied recommendations from doctors with conditions or restrictions on their licenses. Thanks to patient protests, 1,300 of those apps have now been temporarily reinstated.

While there may be a few old applications still waiting to be processed, Salley is confident that that there will be no backlog left at all by December 31. Talk about joyous way to ring in the New Year.

More from our Marijuana archive: "Medical marijuana: Could most of Colorado Springs' MMJ biz be zoned out of existence?"

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Joel Warner is a former staff writer for Westword and International Business Times. He's also written for WIRED, Men's Journal, Men's Health, Bloomberg Businessweek, Popular Science, Slate, Grantland and many other publications. He's co-author of the 2014 book The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny, published by Simon & Schuster.
Contact: Joel Warner