Dec 11, 2013 9:28 PM by Maddie Garrett

State Rushes to Process MMJ Backlog, Prepares for Recreational Pot Applications

As recreational marijuana sales are soon to become a reality in Colorado, some businesses are still waiting to get their final medical marijuana license. In 2010, about 2,000 applications came into the State's Department of Revenue Marijuana Enforcement Division. A year ago, about 900 applications remained to be settled.

Now, as the end of the year approaches, only 74 applicants remain. Ali Hillery, owner of Rocky Mountain Miracles in Colorado Springs, is one of those businesses still in the back log.

"We're allowed to operate with a somewhat temporary license, but state approval is contingent on local approval," explained Hillery.

Those temporary licenses are called operational pending licenses. Julie Postlethwait, spokesperson for the Marijuana Enforcement Division, said they were finally able to catch up thanks to more funding, staffing and a new law recently passed.

"Last year the legislators passed legislation that de-coupled our licensing from the local authority, therefore we can issue our license without waiting to get approval from the local authority," said Postlethwait.

She explained that the remaining applicants likely have some kind of issue, either a new owner has come in or there is a local compliance problem in the mix. It's the latter that's holding up Hillery's business. Still, she said it's been a cumbersome business getting her license processed.

"It's rewarding when it comes to patients, it's challenging when it comes to licensing and that sort of thing," said Hillery.

Like many businesses Hillery is thinking about getting into recreational marijuana sales. But she has reservations about expanding because of the licensing process. Because Colorado Springs banned recreational pot, the first thing she would have to do is move and start the application process all over again.

But Postlethwait said this time around, the State is ready for the applications and the process. She explained that now the infrastructure is already in place and there are fewer applications for recreational sales than they had for medical marijuana sales in 2010.

"We went through a lot of growing pains with the medical marijuana industry, and fortunately we've been able to learn from that and build on it," said Postlethwait.

Currently, Postlethwait said there are 412 recreational marijuana applications pending, dealing with everything from cultivation facilities to sales themselves. 163 of those applications are for retail stores. New rules also require those applications be processed within 90 days of being accepted by the State.



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