New Colorado record: 1,650 medical-marijuana applications in one day

Remember that scene in Fantasia where Mickey Mouse, as the sorcerer's apprentice, is besieged by a never-ending army of brooms inundating him with pail upon pail of water? That's sort of like what's happening these days at the vital statistics department of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment -- though instead of pails of water, the office is being inundated with crates upon crates of medical-marijuana patient applications.

The number of medical marijuana applications the state received last Tuesday? A whopping 1,650 -- an all-time record, says state registrar Ron Hyman, who oversees the applications. That's a mind-blowing figure, especially considering that the total application number had barely crested 5,000 at the start of 2009.

And that day was far from a fluke. "We're completely buried," says Hyman. It's impossible to know just how many marijuana applications in total the state's been receiving lately; Hyman's office, way overburdened, just wrapped up processing the applications from September and posted statistical information from that month online: a total of 19,691 patient applications had been received by the end of that month, with 3,000 coming in September alone.

Since then, the numbers have only gotten bigger. To handle it all, Hyman's requesting the legislature find funds to expand his staff beyond its three permanent and three temporary employees, borrowing money from vital statistics to cover costs; he's also looking around his workplace for "some storage rooms we can borrow from other programs to store some of the mail in."

Occasionally, he also has to fend off complaints from the post office about all its added work, since most of the applications are certified and registered mail -- meaning the postal service has to track it all.

Hyman tries to stay optimistic: "I figure there are only five million people in Colorado, so eventually I'll get to the end of my work."

Until all those applications have to be renewed, that is.

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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