No more state moratorium and the procedure for new medical marijuana business licenses

As of 7/1/12, there is no more state moratorium for new medical marijuana business licenses. This means a new medical marijuana business can be formed and licensed. It also means that existing businesses can now expand, add another OPC, open a new MMC, or add a MIP.

According to MMED, the procedure for new licenses will be similar to “change of ownership.” This means that you will be provided with a checklist of items to be completed and documents to be provided to the state. Once the list is complete, it is necessary to schedule a meeting with either Mr. Lewis Koski or Mr. John Seckman to review the documents. Be advised that both the application and licensing fees are due at the time of application. MMED anticipates that there will be few such applications. Yeah, right!

Next, be reminded that you need local approval of any such business application. Be sure to check with the local authorities regarding their acceptance of such applications. If they won’t, the state won’t. If they will, the state will. For instance, the City of Boulder passed a 9-month moratorium. Mr. Seckman advises that state and local processing of the license can happen at the same time.

Additionally, new applications will be handled on a “first come, first serve” basis. No preference will be given to existing businesses. However, as a practical matter, MMED would already have a file on the business and a lot of the processing work may already be done.

Finally, be reminded that each MMC must have its own OPC. You cannot simply add a retail and attach your existing OPC to it. You may be able to subdivide your OPC into two OPCs, but local and state approval would be required. Of course, you can add more than one OPC to an existing MMC.  However,  unless and until the new license is granted by both local and state officials, YOU CANNOT START OPERATING!. You can only operate after both licenses are issued.

If you need our help, particularly in your meeting with MMED, please contact us.

6/20/11 meeting with Dan Hartman/MMED, practical issues

Yesterday I met with the Director of the Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division to answer the numerous questions I receive from the businesses we represent. The issues and the answers are set forth below:

1. Transfer of “banned” businesses to new jurisdictions:

Will there be continued operation of the transferred business based on prior 7/1/10 compliance? Yes, as long as there is local approval. Mr. Hartman recommends that the “banned business” request withdrawal of the application, along with an explanation of the banned/transfer reason. If the application is not withdrawn, it must be denied. Then, once the transfer and local approval are complete, you can request that the withdrawal of the application be rescinded. Once the rescinded application is reinstated, you may resume operation.

Also, if the banned/tranferred business is sold before the transfer is complete, the business will not be able to operate. Mr. Hartman’s reasoning is that this provision is designed to help people who suffered local ban, not speculators who seek to profit from this unfortunate situation.

Further, both the MMC/MIP and OPC must be transferred, not the OPC only.

2. Security system and other ongoing compliance issues:

Are there approved providers? No, and there will not be any. Mr. Hartman states that the specifications are published and must be followed. As long as the specifications are followed, the provider of the service is not relevant. He did state that ADT appears to be ready to supply MMC/MIP/OPC security needs.

What if the system is not in place yet? This will be ok, as long was you have something in place and are under contract by 7/1/11to meet the specifications.

What if the system is not adequate, will there be a chance to correct it? Yes.

Does the security system have to have its own room? No, as long as the DVR(s) is locked in a secure box, bolted into the wall, floor, etc.

3. Point of Sale system:

Are there approved providers? No, but various companies are prepared for compliance, (MJ Freeway is one example). Mr. Hartman advised that “a big chief tablet” is ok, as long as you are tracking the necessary information. What the state requires will be published shortly and I will send out an email link to this information.

4. Employees deemed unacceptable by MMED:

Will there be an opportunity to terminate the employee if deemed unacceptable? Yes.

5. Ongoing construction, permits, etc.:

Does all construction work need to be completed by 7/1/11? No. You must be making a concerted effort to complete the work and permits should be requested by 7/1/11. However, if the local licensing authorities require the work to be completed and deny you for this reason, the state will not interfere and will enforce the denial.

6. License fees:

What are the licensing fees? These are not set, but MMCs will be less than the application fee, OPCs and MIPs will be more (perhaps even double). The license will be good for one year and will begin when the state notifies you that the fee is due and payable.

7. Key employees:

What is a key employee versus support? The answer is “case by case” and the answer will turn on how the employee is used, whether there is any contract with employee in place (key), and the businesses decision to classify someone as an “independent contractor” will have little or no bearing.

Also, payment of growers “by the pound” will be under serious scrutiny. If that is the arrangement, Mr. Hartman advises that this arrangement makes the grower an owner and the business will be required to revise its ownership structure, corporate documents, etc., accordingly. Mr. Hartman advises that you should pay the grower a salary and that bonuses are ok.

8. Business under denial/appeal, i.e., City of Boulder:

What is the state going to do about businesses locally denied (not banned), where an appeal is pending and the local licensing authority permits continued operation? This is a tricky one. The state will honor the continued operation order until such time as the business prevails or appeals to the district court. An order from the district court permitting continued operation will be required. The license will be issued by the state as a “provisional license” and the state will await final outcome of the case.

Further, Mr. Hartman advised that he will be speaking with the City of Boulder to discuss this matter (and others). Stay tuned, as I expect this policy to change (for better or worse) once the situation between the City and the State is further clarified.

9. Transactions of businesses:

Do all of the various sales, mergers and tranfers of MMBs have to be completed by 7/1/11? No. However, be reminded that any transfer requires (1) local approval; (2) state approval, including a meeting with the parties with MMED before the sale/merger/transfer occurs. Simply put, you need MMED’s blessing before the transaction can occur.

10, Sales below cost/free:

Does the “sales below cost or for free” provisions of HB1043 preclude the incentive programs, i.e. “buy one get one, free pre-rolled,” etc.? No, and there will be new rules developed in connection with the industry to help clarify this situation.

However, Mr. Hartman advised that MMED will take a very dim view of businesses “flooding” the market with cheap meds to drive out other businesses. Beware.

11. Independent contractors, i.e., trimmers, growers, etc.

What do independent contractors, vendors, etc., need to file with MMED? Everyone needs some sort of license to handle meds. If you are an employee, the employee application needs to be completed. If you are a vendor, the vendor application:

http://www.colorado.gov/cs/Satellite?blobcol=urldata&blobheader=application%2Fpdf&blobkey=id&blobtable=MungoBlobs&blobwhere=1251721405112&ssbinary=true

If you are an independent contractor, i.e,, trimmer, etc., you need to complete an occupational license application. It is unclear what this means. If you fall into this category, we can schedule a meeting with MMED to discuss your situation.

Again, the relationship between the individual and the MMB will be viewed by its substance, not what you call it. Be careful.

12. Contracts between MMC and MIP:

Is there an approved contract, recommended language or necessary inclusions for the contracts between MMCs and MIPs? No. The contract should deal with the amount paid for the trim, the weights to be delivered, the parties, etc. Also, be advised that the parties cannot pay “in product.”

13. Inventory and MIP sales:

Does the trim, etc., sold to MIPs count against allowable inventory, 70/30? Yes and no. If the MMC sells trim to the MIP, i.e., 10 lbs, and the MIP makes the infused product and provides all of the infused product to the MMC, then no. However, if the 10 lbs. sold to the MIP is then used to make infused products sold to other MMCs, even if 1/2 of the infused product goes back to the selling MMC, then all 10 lbs. counts against the selling MMCs 70/30 inventory numbers. Be aware that this is somewhat different from prior information provided by MMED.

14. MIP issues, misc.:

Does the use of alcohol in infused products require a liquor license required? Not as far as MMED is concerned. However, Mr. Hartman advised that the Liquor board may have a very different view and a big problem with this. I suggest a candid discussion with the liquor board be had before proceeding further with alcohol infused product manufacturing.

Does the liquid weight versus MMJ weight count against an MMC’s allowable inventory? This was not a clear answer. In general, no. However, if the MIP product is clearly labled “2 ounces, 1 gram, etc. MMJ in each product,” Mr. Hartman advises that he would have no choice but to count it against allowable inventory.

What about MIPs in jurisdictions with no MIP approval process, i.e., Fort Collins? If there is no local approval, there will be no state approval. Sorry to all the Fort Collins’ MIPs.

15. Expanded plant and ounce recommendations:

Is a MMC ok to honor the recommendation and incorporate patient center assignments of this variety into its allowable inventory? Yes.

Does the MMC have any duty to investigate the propriety of the recommendation? No. However, Mr. Hartman advises that the expanded plant recommendations will be under great scrutiny by the Department of Health and that doctor recommendations patterns are likely to be tracked. In these cases, the doctors will be required to medically justify the recommendations. Be advised that this is going to be a big deal

If patient designates “self and MMC” can both the patient and MMC grow 6 plants? This answer was not clear. In general, yes, but it appears that this issue has not been considered by MMED and is likely to see revision in the near future.

16. Sales Taxes:

What is the form of monthly reporting to MMED? This will be handled by the sales tax folks, not the MMCs/MIPs. However, monthly, not quarterly payments are required.

17. Other:

Does a scale need to be attached and incorporated into the point of sale system? No.

Can someone own a % of both a MMC and a doctor referral business even if no $ is exchanged between MMC and the doctor referral business? No. Mr. Hartman believes this is not appropriate. I am not sure if his opinion will be legally supported, since the only prohibition is payments from MMCs to doctors/doctor referral businesses.

Can investors receive a % of the profit? Yes, but there are then deemed owners, not investors and must follow all of the MMC/MIP ownership rules (residency, felony rules, and local/state approval of their ownership).

Can existing MMC’s apply for new retail locations in 2011? No. New OPC locations in 2011? No.

How is the MMC going to verify patient center assignment? MMED and the Department of Health are working on this. For now, keep track yourself, including accurate records

What will MMED do about MMCs/MIPs currently in litigation between partners for pending licensees? Mr. Hartman will issue the license provided both parties are license eligible. So, if the litigation is between owners with felonies and owners without felonies, the license will be denied. The same is true for residents and non-residents. Mr. Hartman wants notice of the lawsuit and periodic status reports. He does not want copies of pleadings.

Lifetime drug felony; reiteration: 35 day rule

CRS 12-43.3-307(1) (h) states that a license shall not be issued to a “person who has discharged a sentence in the five years immediately preceeding the application date for a conviction of a felony or a person who at any time has been convicted of a felony pursuant to any state, federal law regarding the possession, distribution, manufacturing, cultivation or use of a controlled substance.” This change added “manufacturing” and “cultivation” to the license prohibiting offenses and did not limit the lifetime prohibition.

However, the state may grant a license to “an employee if the employee has a state felony (not federal) conviction based on possession or use of a controlled substance that would not be a felony if the person were convicted of the offense on the date he or she applied for licensure.” I anticipate this was amended to: (1) ensure that employees were specifically included in the prohibition portions of this section; and (2) to recognize the reclassification of marijuana charges from felonies to misdemeanors. I assume that the reclassification would have to be in the state where the conviction was entered. This means that if the conviction was in Florida and is still a felony in Florida, but not in Colorado, it is still a felony for purposes of licensure.

Finally, I want to take the opportunity to re-clarify the “35 day” rule based on ongoing confusion. Up to this point, the State prohibited selling to new patients who were not in possession of their card (see, MMED’s 9/27/10 Memorandum regarding its position on the 35 day rule, http://www.colorado.gov/cs/Satellite?blobcol=urldata&blobheader=application%2Fpdf&blobkey=id&blobtable=MungoBlobs&blobwhere=1251659488306&ssbinary=true).

CRS 12-43.3-402(5) was changed to state that “the employee of the medical marijuana center making the sale shall verify that the purchaser has a valid registration card… or a copy of a current and complete new application for the medical marijuana registry administered by the Department of Public Health and Environment that is documented by a certified mail return receipt withing the preceding 35 days and a valid identification card that matches the name on the registration card.” The “certified mail return receipt” is the green postcard that is signed by the Department mailed to the sender, not the USPS receipt for paying the certified mail postage fee. Also, in such a case, the employee must contact the Department of Public Health and Environment to determine whether the purchaser’s application has been denied. This section does not apply to license renewal applications and these patients must have their card.

New MMJ regulations, HB 1043

Despite partisan bickering regarding other issues facing Colorado, the legislature passed HB 1043 with virtually no opposition (what a change from last summer!). Please understand that HB 1043 amends CRS 12-43.3-101 et seq. (HB 1284) and the two documents should be read together to fully understand MMJ business and caregiving regulations.

In any event, the following is a summary of the new law applicable to MMJ businesses:

1. Pending licensees will be able to continue to operate while local and state licensing authorities are completing the pending application process;
2. There will be no new licenses issued until 7/1/12, i.e., another 1 year moratorium;
3. Businesses issued their licenses will be apply to apply for changes to the license, a new license or license type (i.e., size of center). It is not clear whether this means the licensed businesses can add OPCs or MMCs. I will speak with the state and let everyone know what “change” and “new” mean to MMED;
4. Pending licensees in “banned” municipalities can apply for a new license with a local licensing authority and transfer to the new location. Good news for all those folks who encountered fear, ignorance and local politics! It is unclear how this will actually work and whether the business can continue to operate post-transfer. I will speak with the state and let everyone know;
5. MMCs (not MIPs) can sell up to 6 clones to patients and up to 1/2 of the # of plants that exceed 6, based on a doctor’s recommendation. The definition of clone or “immature plant” is 8″ x 8″ in a 2″ x 2″ container and has nothing to do with rootedness;
6. The 2 year residency requirement only applies to owners and no longer applies to employees;
7. MMCs can sell to patients with an application, ID and recommendation while the state is processing the application (no more 35 day rule), However, the MMC is required to call CDPHE and confirm that the application has not been denied. Also, MMCs cannot sell to a patient with a renewal application, only a new application;
8. MMCs can use an automated dispensing machine. I am not sure why anyone would want to, since patient loyalty and customer service is what will distinguish success from failure;
9. Laboratories must obtain an occupational business license (according to MMED, the same applicant licensee requirements will apply) and CANNOT have any interest in a MMC or MIP;
10. No sales below cost or giving MMJ away unless it is to a patient who has been determined indigent by the State. This means no more “give aways” or “two for one” deals. Spread the word, so that this practice is ceased and everyone is on the same page;
11. An OPC can provide MMJ to more than 1 MMC, as long as the holder of the OPC is a common owner of all of the MMCs. What this really means is that multiple MMC locations, commonly owned, can use one OPC facility;
12. MIP products must be sealed and labeled. It is not yet clear what the label will say or whether the packaging must conceal the product inside;
13. The bill confirms that MIPs can never sell MMJ and are limited to growing up to 500 plants (there is a business need waiver process for more than 500 plants); and
14. No agricultural zoned cultivation. It is unclear whether the “no agricultural zone” issue applies to PCs or patients. I will look into this; and
15. MMCs can trade MMJ in equal amounts, but the MMJ cannot be “re-traded.”

Regarding primary caregivers:

1. The PC must register with the State the location of the cultivation and provide registration information for the PC’s patients;
2. The PC must comply with local regulations, including zoning. For instance, Boulder only permits care/cultivation for 1 patient in a residential zone. This provides the local governments some “teeth” for their widely different primary caregiver rules;
3. PCs may delegate duties to another PC, provided that the original PC maintains an ongoing relationship with the patients.

1st lawsuit against MMED successful

It has been awhile since my last blog. As you may have guessed, I am working hard on MMC/MIP compliance issues, including numerous meetings with the new director of the Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division, Mr. Dan Hartman. Over the last several months working with Mr. Hartman and his predecessor, Mr. Matt Cook, I have developed an insight into how MMED may address each situation. This allows me to understand how MMED is “thinking” and help predict future rules and changes.

In any event, there are times when we must stand up for our rights and challenge the laws as written and as interpreted by MMED. Accordingly, in December, I filed the first lawsuit against MMED based its denial of a client’s MMC business application. The lawsuit was over whether an applicant must file an MMC business application by 8/1/10 or “within 30 days of receiving local approval.” The statute provided for both, alternative, filing deadlines. MMED determined that only the 8/1/10 filing deadline was applicable and issued a cease and desist order. However, “the law is the law” and MMED entered into a settlement which accepted the application filing and my client was permitted to open their business. While not every case will be successful, it is always important to try.