Monday, April 26, 2010

CO marijuana apps add up

Posted by on Mon, Apr 26, 2010 at 7:12 PM

Increasing the General Fund, one ounce at a time.
  • Increasing the General Fund, one ounce at a time.

Whereas the benefits of marijuana for those in need are typically of the intangible variety — restful sleep, relief from nagging pain, and the ability to leave the house — a recent report by Colorado news-focused site Face the State says the MMJ industry also offers the state something with a little more heft: $3.4 million in application fees.

So far this fiscal year, the state has pulled down nearly $3.4 million in medical marijuana registration fees and is on track to reap $11 million total by July. That's because every Coloradan who wants to obtain a medical marijuana permit has to shell out $90 per application, and that kind of money piles up quickly.

Yet, there's still the well-known problem that Colorado is drowning in applications. The report states that 55,000 (yes, thousand) applications are sitting, stacked in piles, in government storerooms awaiting processing, with some $5 million in unprocessed checks doing the same. At a rate of 2,000 per month (though that will likely increase with the additional staffing scheduled to be added), the backlog should be cleared some six months after complete medical marijuana legalization has occurred.

And of the money the state has been able to collect so far, only a fraction actually has gone to the department itself, which bears the brunt of the paper pushing. The state's operating budget claims the lion's share of the pot revenue; only $849,000 was budgeted for the health department’s medical-marijuana office this year whereas the state's General Fund has increased by $2.5 million, with more to come.

With the flood of applications from Coloradoans unlikely to slow down any time soon, it remains to be seen if the state can keep pace. If pending legislation is passed as-is, more money would flow the health department's way, likely funding more staffing. Either way, it's apparent that mean green means obscene green.

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