Medical marijuana is more popular than ever before in the Big Sky State.
Montana receives an average of 200 to 600 applications for medical marijuana each week. The department has even seen as many as 1,100 applications in a week’s time, according to Jeff Buska, Department of Health & Human Services administrator for quality assurance.
Patients typically have to wait between three and four weeks before receiving a medical marijuana card, reports Marnee Banks at KXLH News in Helena.
At the end of March, more than 12,000 people in Montana had active medical marijuana cards; by the end of May, that number had grown to 16,000. That works out to about 500 applications per week for the last two months, or about 100 per working day.
DPHHS processes every one of those applications, and with demand skyrocketing, so does the workload for eight staffers assigned to process the forms using a basic data-entry program.
Buska said the program limits what the state can track, and how fast it can issue cards.
“It’s not very efficient for us, especially with the volume we are experiencing,” Buska said.
“To fix the program, we started a little over a year ago and we started doing some programming and designing a new database,” Buska explained. “We can keep track of the patient’s history of enrollment, history of caregiver changes, and it’s going to make it more efficient for us to be able to respond to law enforcement inquiries.”
The new system allows law enforcement to access the registry 24/7; they only had access during business hours with the old program. The new program is being paid for with application fees from medical marijuana patients.
“Oh yes, I think the new system is going to be wonderful,” Buska said. “It is going to create a lot more efficiencies for us to keep track of all the applications that we have here, status of those applications, and be able to approve things and issue cards more efficiently.”
While the new system is still in the testing phase, Buska said he hopes to have it fully operational by July.