A marijuana plant. (Denver Post file photo)

Colorado considers lowering medical-marijuana patient fee

Colorado health officials want to reduce the fee that licensed medical-marijuana patients pay, in a move that could impact how many people stick with medical-marijuana after recreational pot sales start in January.

Right now, medical-marijuana patients pay $35 when they apply to the state patient registry or when they renew their state-issued medical-marijuana cards every year. A proposal set to be heard by the Board of Health next week would lower that fee to $15. If approved, the change would take effect in February.

The reason for the drop is that the state fund that pays for the registry is awash in cash โ€” more than $13 million. Because fees are not supposed to be profit-generating for the state, health officials need to trim the fund’s reserves to be closer to the registry’s budgetary requirements.

“We are required to evaluate our cost and revenue each year and adjust (the fee) as appropriate,” said Ron Hyman, the Department of Health official who oversees the patient registry.

But the fee reduction could also impact the balance of people who remain medical-marijuana patients even after recreational marijuana sales open up in January to everyone over 21. While medical-marijuana patients must pay the registry fee and also for a doctor’s visit to get their marijuana recommendation, they won’t pay the hefty sales and excise taxes Colorado voters approved this year on recreational marijuana. They are also allowed to possess more marijuana โ€” two ounces or sometimes more โ€” compared to the one-ounce limit for Colorado recreational marijuana customers.

“There are lots of things that make medical more attractive from the user perspective,” said Sam Kamin, a University of Denver law professor who has studied marijuana legalization in Colorado. “…Particularly for renewing, I think (the reduced fee) is going to make a big difference.”

There are nearly 113,000 valid medical-marijuana card holders in Colorado.

John Ingold: 303-954-1068, jingold@denverpost.com or twitter.com/john_ingold

Read this story on DenverPost.com ยป