Medical Marijuana Distribution in Colorado Under Scrutiny

Colorado’s medical marijuana industry is coming under intense scrutiny, with the recent release of a 102-page audit conducted by the Colorado Department of Public and Health and Environment’s Department of Revenue.
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Our Colorado marijuana lawyers understand that the report indicates that just 12 doctors are responsible for half all medical marijuana patient recommendations made in the state. Officials say this is a sign that the medical marijuana industry lacks appropriate oversight.

The number of medical marijuana patients has increased 18-fold in the last four years, the report indicates. There were an estimated 6,000 medical marijuana patients in the state as of 2009. That figure ballooned to 108,000 patients as of March of this year.

Looking at last year’s figures, there were a total of about 900 doctors who issued medical marijuana “red cards” for approved patients. Fifty percent of those were issued by a group of 12 doctors.

This is the second time the health agency has come under fire for its oversight. A previous audit in March chastised the agency for spending the majority of its budget on furniture and vehicles for staffers, as opposed to enforcement of rules for medical marijuana patients.

The audit contends that some doctors are recommending excessive amounts of marijuana to patients. In one instance, a patient was given a recommendation for more than 500 plants for personal medicinal use. Another was given a prescription for 75 ounces of the drug.

No doctor has been referred to the state’s medical board for investigation of marijuana prescriptions since early 2011.

In addition to doctor oversight, the audit reported concerns about oversight of caregivers, some of whom are permitted to take on marijuana distribution duties to five or more patients.

The health department was also taken to task for the fact that it failed to make sure that red cards were provided to patients within the mandated 35-day window for more than a third of patients as of late last year. (It’s worth noting though that as of March, that figure had improved significantly, and an overwhelming 99 percent of patients were getting their approval cards on time.)

Some of the patient-related regulations may need to change, the audit speculates. For example, as it now stands, patients have to stipulate to the state a single medical marijuana provider which they patronize. Auditors say that a new approach may be required in order to make sure that distribution centers aren’t producing more of the drug than is necessary for patients who have legitimate needs.

Patient applications fees, the audit indicated, were too steep. That has resulted in a cash fund balance that exceeds the programs needs. That money, about $113 million, is just sitting in the reserve fund, not earmarked for any specific purpose.

The state health department has said it is not disputing the findings of the audit and intends to take action to rectify the issues identified.

The Colorado CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.

Additional Resources:
Colorado Medical Marijuana Audit: 12 Docs Issued Half Of The Medical Pot Patient Recommendations In State, July 16, 2013, By Matt Ferner, The Huffington Post
More Blog Entries:
War on Medical Marijuana Carries High Costs, Report Says, June 19, 2013, Colorado Marijuana Lawyer Blog