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ReLeaf: Summer 2011

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Love or hate the plant they champion, there's something to be said for a group of people willing to take on the federal government for a cause. Or two causes; while covering the medical marijuana community, I've often run into people who've gone green to escape a bone-dry job market and to help others in need of pain relief.

And it definitely hasn't been easy for them, as evidenced by the decline in centers to somewhere around 80 — from the 176 that pre-registered last July. Most of that is probably a natural weeding-out of undercapitalized folks who weren't prepared to deal with one of the most stringent regulatory environments of any industry in the country. And though it's just part of the business game, there's certainly something be mourned there, says Green Love Wellness manager Jesse Vriese.

"You now have a regulated and tight industry," Vriese told local FOX affiliate KXRM-TV at the end of June. "But you put the people who started this, the grassroots of this industry and the ones that were making [the state] money, out of business."

Even for the folks who remain — those who've boned up on profit-and-loss statements, operating margins and fixed costs, and adapted to the rigors of business ownership — there's the revolving door of regulation to deal with, from city, county and state officials with their own agendas. And it hasn't stopped turning yet. The state just changed its license fee schedule; as of July 1, center fees decreased to $3,750 at the bottom level, but optional premises and infused products manufacturer licenses increased, to $2,750 each.

So hang on, because as far as I can see, this ride never stops and it never slows down.

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