Senator backs lower fees for Colo. marijuana dispensaries
Associated Press Writer
DENVER – A lawmaker trying to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries is backing off a proposal to charge high fees to weed out operators who may have criminal ties.
Sen. Chris Romer said Friday that strict regulations, enforced with armed auditors, is the best way to make sure that dispensaries are following the law.
Romer had proposed that dispensaries pay an non-refundable application fee of $10,000 to $35,000, depending on their size, to apply for a license under new regulations lawmakers are considering. Dispensary owners and some lawmakers opposed the idea during a marathon hearing Tuesday, fearing it would only allow large operators to remain in business.
Romer is now backing lower fees proposed by the Department of Revenue: $7,500 for dispensaries with fewer than 300 patients, $12,500 for 300 to 500 and $18,000 for more than 500.
The fee would cover the cost of doing state and national criminal background checks on dispensary operators and investigating the source of dispensaries’ financing, said Matt Cook, senior director of the revenue department’s enforcement group. People with unpaid child support or student loans would also be barred from getting a license.
Dispensaries that get licenses would have to pay an additional licensing fee to cover ongoing regulation, an amount to be determined based on how many dispensaries remain in operation.
Cook said the department believes about 1,100 dispensaries are operating in the state, but he only expects about half to apply for licenses. He said some of the others won’t be able to qualify and others may not want to put up with the hassle of being regulated.
Brian Vicente, executive director of Sensible Colorado, a medical marijuana patients’ group, said the proposed fees are still too high and that costs would just be passed on to patients.