Pot license backlog dogs Colorado regulators

DENVER (AP) — As Colorado prepares for recreational pot sales in less than a month, state marijuana regulators are still battling an enormous backlog issuing licenses for medical marijuana.

Nearly 100 Colorado medical-marijuana businesses are operating with a temporary state license, remnants of a bureaucratic backlog now stretching back more than three years, The Denver Post reported Wednesday (http://goo.gl/CH6jBA).

Colorado allows marijuana dispensaries with pending applications to remain in business. The newspaper reports that 96 businesses are in that category, growing and selling pot without final licenses. All the businesses applied for licenses in 2010.

The state Marijuana Enforcement Division considers those businesses “operational pending.”

The backlog is still much smaller than it was last year, when the agency had 960 pending applications in October.

There are currently 517 medical-marijuana dispensaries in Colorado, plus another 140 marijuana-infused product-makers and 745 cultivation facilities.

The state has denied 226 license applications since regulation of medical pot began, and another 965 licenses have been withdrawn, said Julie Postlethwait, spokeswoman for the Marijuana Enforcement Division.

There are far fewer businesses applying for licenses in the recreational market, which could start as soon as Jan. 1.

Postlethwait said Tuesday that the state has received 159 retail applications, plus 207 pending applications for growers and 33 applications from product manufacturers such as bakers of pot brownies.

Marijuana industry advocates and others say the state has worked hard to eliminate the backlog, which was a point of criticism in a scathing audit of the division released earlier this year.

“It’s clear to me that the Department of Revenue is working diligently,” said state Rep. Angela Williams, a Denver Democrat who chairs the legislature’s audit committee. “They have made progress.”

But federal raids last month on more than a dozen Colorado marijuana businesses are a worry for law enforcement officials. One official told the newspaper that state officials aren’t doing a good enough job of clearing the backlog.

“The state has never been able to deal with this in an effective way,” said Thornton 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.”

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Information from: The Denver Post, http://www.denverpost.com

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