Chatting with Vincent Palazzotto today, I found out the executive director of the Medical Marijuana Assistance Program of America is looking to change the way the state spends its surplus funds derived from patient application fees, of which it currently has some $6 million.
"This is probably the biggest thing we're working on," says Palazzotto in a phone conversation. "Of course, you know, last year $9 million was taken out of the registry budget and really misallocated, you know, taken away from the industry and used however Governor [Bill] Ritter saw fit, to be able to balance the budget.
"This year, we're actually working with Senator [Pat] Steadman on a proposal that would do three things with the registry surplus, as well as future monies that are raised with the $90 registration fee."
In a later e-mail, Palazzotto detailed those three things:
We propose that 15% of the overall MMJ registry budget be allocated to a patient fund setup to further the development of best standards and practices for the use of cannabis as medicine. Specifically, allocation of funds should:
1. Fund research and development through a grant approval process
2. Implement a cannabis specific patient assistance help-line staffed by trained professionals.
3. Fund the distribution of educational pamphlets providing pertinent information to all cannabis patients.
"Right now, there's about a $6.8 million surplus in the registry; and of course, they're considering lowering the registry fee to $35, which we're in favor of," says Palazzotto on the phone. "But we'd just like to see that, one: that the budget be a little more disclosed, so that we can understand why does it cost Alaskans $20 for their registry, and ours $90 — what's that money being used for? And then a small percentage being allocated for those three things that I just spoke to."
As far as the Denver state senator's role in the process, Palazzotto says, "He's very positive to it, and really where he's at right now is, working to get support, and share it with other people. ...
"And we were able to — through Senator Steadman, and through our channels — be able to understand where, exactly, the surplus was. You know, $6.8 million, that's quite a bit of money," the executive director continues. "And we think the patients should be protected; we think that we should know the facts; and that we should really commission studies, or research, that the populace today can get behind and we can understand exactly what it is that we're providing patients."
See the full proposal after the jump.