We first heard the Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division may be losing people last Friday, but were unable to reach our traditional contacts to verify the news. Yesterday, Kristen Wyatt at the Associated Press confirmed it, reporting that 20 of 37 employees of the division of the Department of Revenue will be reassigned due to less-than-expected operating revenue that's derived from fees paid by medical marijuana centers seeking state licensure.
Revenue spokesman Mark Couch says the MMED is cash-funded, which means that when fees don't come in, the division has to whittle staff. The MMED was budgeted for $5.7 million this fiscal year. So far this fiscal year, it has collected $418,750 in fees.
State marijuana licensing fees range from $2,750 to $14,000, depending on the type and size of business. Individual workers in the business also must pay $250 for a state background check and other vetting to make sure they're eligible to work with medical marijuana.
One of the reasons cited for the delay is how slowly local authorities — like, say, the city of Colorado Springs — are taking to complete their end of the process. When we spoke with City Clerk employee Lee McRae, who's in charge of processing the applications, he said there was "no specific deadline" for their completion.
Additionally, a blog post from the Denver-based marijuana advocacy group Cannabis Business Alliance stated that the transfers were temporary until the state could receive an influx of cash from center owners who were apparently being asked to pay licensing fees immediately, instead of when the application is approved, as was the previous agreement.
That post has since been removed and replaced with this statement from executive director Shawn Coleman. “Since the passage of regulation in 2010 the medical cannabis industry has been in clear and unambiguous compliance with the state law and will continue to do so during this time of temporary shortfalls in the regulatory division.”
We've called the CBA, and state spokesman Mark Couch, for more and will update this post accordingly.