Statewide dispensary moratorium ends, new applications slow to come in

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A statewide moratorium on new medical-marijuana businesses ended Sunday, but don't expect to see many new dispensaries popping up right away.

Legislators approved the two-year moratorium as they were creating a regulatory framework for the booming industry in 2010, thinking it would give local municipalities and the newly created Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division some time to catch up.

Tom Downey, now the director of the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses, says that as of July 3 he had received exactly one new medical marijuana center application, and he doesn't expect to see a huge flood to come pouring in anytime soon. "I expect some, of course, but it's not that there has been a huge group of people waiting," he notes.

Downey thinks that the majority of requests for new licenses will actually come from existing businesses that have been forced out of another municipality. MMJ businesses shut down by local bans have already been allowed to move under state law, but shops forced to close after receiving letters from U.S. Attorney John Walsh, for example, had to voluntarily withdraw their state and local licensing. They'll now have to reapply as new ventures in order to open in different locations.

And unlike centers that opened prior to the passage of regulations in 2009 and 2010, new medical marijuana dispensaries and infused-product manufacturers must now be licensed before they can begin operations -- just like any other business.

In order to do that, they must have their applications processed by the state Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division -- which still has plenty on its plate.

As of early last month, the MMED had only approved and licensed 113 medical marijuana centers; it had 464 applications waiting approval. Of those, 229 need local approval before the MMED can move forward; the rest are in varying phases of background checks from the division. The MMED has also licensed ten infused-product manufacturers, with 183 still waiting approval or denial.

More from our marijuana news archives: "Medical marijuana dispensaries can't deduct business expenses on state tax returns"; "Medical marijuana patient Bob Crouse acquitted: Another wasteful prosecution?"

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