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Colorado Tackles Medical Marijuana Business Application Backlog


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Colorado Tackles Medical Marijuana Business Application Backlog


For almost three years, Colorado has struggled with a bureaucratic backlog that has led over 100 medical marijuana businesses to operated without a finalized state license.


These businesses are considered “operational pending” which means that they are allowed to remain open and serving patients while the state decides whether to approve or deny the applications that were submitted all the way back in 2010.


While any backlog is unfavorable, the state has made big strides.  There were over 900 operational pending collectives just last year, and the state hopes to eliminate the last 100 pending applications this month.


According to Marijuana Enforcement Division spokeswoman Julie Postlethwait, there could be a number of reasons for the delays in processing the applications.  Investigators could need to run a background check on a new owner, or an owner could be delinquent in paying taxes. A dispensary could have been caught staying open past state-mandated hours or could be under investigation for more significant noncompliance with state rules.


“I would guess, if it’s been this long since they have been licensed, there is probably some issue that needs to be resolved,” she explained.  “What that issue was, I can’t speak to.”


Postlethwait explained that a change in how licenses are processed is the biggest reason the division was able to minimize the backlog so quickly. The state previously had to wait until it had received verification of local governmental approval of a license before passing final judgment on a license. Lawmakers this year approved a change in state law eliminating that hurdle, although businesses still must obtain a local license.


New concerns about the backlog have been raised following a number of recent DEA raids in the state.  Of the businesses raided, 12 had pending applications.  While operational pending businesses are held to the same standards as fully licensed stores, law enforcement officials do not believe the state is doing enough to clear the backlog.  “The state has never been able to deal with this in an effective way,” explained Police Sgt. Jim Gerhardt of the North Metro Task Force.  “I think it’s just another example of some of the flaws in the infrastructure around this issue.”


However, many medical marijuana advocates are encouraged by the progress the state has made on the backlog in the past year.  A recent push to clear it was sparked earlier this year after an unfavorable audit of the Marijuana Enforcement Division.  State Representative Angela Williams who chairs the legislature’s audit committee stated, “It’s clear to me that the Department of Revenue is working diligently.  They have made progress.”



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