New Legal Battle May Be Looming In CO Over Medical Marijuana Fee Money
Joe | May 09, 2012 | Comments 0
A plan to use the money made from medical marijuana fees in Colorado to hire regulators for the MMJ industry has raised an outcry from some medical marijuana advocates, while other MMJ advocates are defending the proposal.
At first glance the bill seems like a no-brainer. The state health department has millions in excess marijuana “red card” payments, and the state revenue department can’t afford marijuana inspectors and other staff to oversee the medical marijuana industry.
But the cash transfer bill has prompted accusations of fiscal mismanagement and worse. It also has uncovered a sharp divide among marijuana activists themselves.
In a letter to Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, prominent marijuana industry attorney Robert Corry said he’d file a class action lawsuit on behalf of patients to block the transfer. Corry wrote that marijuana registry money “cannot lawfully be used for any purpose other than to administer the registry on behalf of patients.”
Other marijuana activists disagree, saying the medical marijuana industry needs properly funded regulators. Earlier this year, the MMED had to shed nearly half its staff because it’s a cash-funded agency within the Department of Revenue and wasn’t bringing in enough licensing fees to cover staffing costs.
Michael Elliott, executive director of the Denver-based Medical Marijuana Industry Group, urged lawmakers Tuesday to make the transfer and revive the enforcement agency, which would boost public confidence that marijuana businesses are acting ethically.
From an outside perspective it seems like there couldn’t be a worse time for medical marijuana advocates in Colorado to be at odds, with the federal government closing dispensaries all over the state.
The issue is likely to be decided very soon however.
The transfer measure passed the committee on a 5-3 vote. However, it has more steps to go, and its fate is far from certain in the closing hours of the state Legislature. If the House and Senate can’t agree on the measure by midnight Wednesday, it dies for the year.
There is certainly no shortage of drama from the medical marijuana industry in Colorado these days.