|Graphic: Legal Libations|
Residency Requirement Creates Controversy; Sparks Lawsuit Threat
More than 2,000 Coloradans have applied for licenses to operate in the state’s burgeoning medical marijuana business. The applications were due Sunday, and the figure could still rise because those postmarked by the due date will still be counted.
The 2,059 forms received so far include applications from 717 dispensaries, 271 marijuana product makers (edibles), and 1,071 marijuana growers, according to John Ingold of The Denver Post.
More than $7 million in fees were brought in by the 2,059 applications, an average of about $3,400 per business.
HB 1284, passed by the Colorado Legislature earlier this year, created the medical marijuana licensing process. It requires people wanting to open a dispensary be residents of the state.
That bill left the job of working out details to the Department of Revenue. On Monday, the department’s State Licensing Authority held an emergency hearing to consider the residency rules, reports Joe Hanel of The Durango Herald.
The dispensaries would have to fire employees who have not lived in Colorado for two years under a potential new rule that state regulators considered Monday. An administrative judge for the department heard Monday’s testimony and will decide on the residency requirement.
Dispensary owners oppose the plan, contending that it interferes with their right to hire employees, and some are threatening a lawsuit.
|Photo: Denver Westword|
|Jessica Corry: “It’s an egregious violation of the U.S. Constitution and state constitution”|
Colorado has no right to exclude nonresidents from running businesses or working in Colorado, according to Jessica Corry, a lawyer and advocate of lighter medical marijuana regulations.
“It is an egregious violation of the U.S. Constitution and state constitution,” Corry said.
Corry promised to sue if the residency rule is adopted. “We’re talking about lawsuits that could cost the state money, and that’s not fair to the taxpayer,” Corry said.
At the hearing, Matt Cook, the State Licensing Authority’s senior director of enforcement, said he interprets the two-year residency requirement as applying to everyone who works at a dispensary, both owners and employees.
In evaluating dispensary applications, Cook said the department probably won’t begin considering employee information until early 2011. By that point, Cook said, the Legislature will be back in session and lawmakers can fix problems with the residency rule before anyone’s application is disqualified.
Sen. Chris Romer (D-Denver), who sponsored the dispensary licensing law, said he did not mean the two-year requirement to apply to employees.
Sen. Romer said an end-of-session deadline meant the Legislature didn’t catch all the glitches in the law, and he urged Cook to apply the requirement only to dispensary owners.