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Colorado lowers medical-marijuana patient fee to $15

Medical-marijuana patient fees will be dramatically lowered to $15 annually beginning early next year, the state board of health decided Wednesday.

In a 7-1 vote, the board lowered the $35 fee patients pay by 57 percent to $15.

The change is mainly because of the fact that the registry’s state fund has made more than enough money to cover administrative costs, said Mark Salley, spokesman for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

In fact, there is an excess of $13 million.

“The board felt it was appropriate to make this change,” Salley said.

The $35 fee was slashed down from $90 in 2011. When the program started, after voter approval in 2000, the annual fee was $140.

Patients need a doctor’s recommendation to be legal medical-marijuana users in Colorado and do not need to apply to the registry.

However, the registry gives patients extra protection against prosecution, and a registry card is required to shop at a dispensary.

The registry is not supposed to make money, just cover administrative costs.

Numerous speakers during the public comment section of the meeting suggested the fee should be waved, but the $15 amount was deemed fair, Salley said.

The change will take effect in February.

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

Medical marijuana businesses, the shops and the grow houses, also pay significant fees for permits.

During the meeting, there was some discussion on what to do with a portion of the $13 million extra, said Michael Elliott, executive director of the Medical Marijuana Industry Group.

One suggestion, supported by Medical Marijuana Industry Group, is to use $7 million of the estimated $13 million to research whether other conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder and epilepsy should qualify, Elliott said.

Hard data could be used to show medical marijuana helps those afflictions, leading to new qualifying conditions for patient use, Elliott said.

“There is no good reason not to do this,” he said.

While there was some discussion, the topic was not an agenda item and no official action was taken, Salley said.

Ryan Parker: 303-954-2409, rparker@denverpost.com or twitter.com/ryanparkerdp

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