Chris Walsh: Marijuana Regulations Still Creating Monster Headaches in CO.

Colorado medical marijuana dispensaries toiled away day and night for months to prepare for new state regulations that went into effect on July 1.

But they soon discovered that the agencies charged with overseeing the industry weren’t even ready. Now, a month later, the state is still trying to set up the necessary procedures to enforce – and clarify – its own medical marijuana laws and regulations.

This was abundantly clear at the Act4Colorado meeting I attended last night, where dozens of medical marijuana dispensary owners peppered a state auditor with questions, throwing in a number of complaints and suggestions for good measure. The meeting was fairly lighthearted at first, but the mood changed a bit by the end of the meeting, with several owners visibly frustrated by the state’s handling of several key issues.

– Much of the two-hour meeting  revolved around the transportation manifest dispensaries submit to the Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division before each shipment. Owners expressed confusion over how to fill out the form correctly and account for unexpected events (like when a driver can’t deliver product in the time period specified on the manifest). But the biggest complaints were reserved for lag time. Some owners said it’s taken six days or more to receive the approval, disrupting their supply chain management and in some cases leaving them with empty shelves.

– Owners also took issue with the requirement that a specific driver must be listed on each manifest. Sometimes unexpected events force dispensaries to switch drivers at the last minute. Several people suggested allowing dispensaries to obtain prior approval for all potential drivers for any shipment, giving them more flexibility.

– There was mass confusion, and consternation, over regulations tied to the 30% Compliance Report. Several owners were visibly upset during this part of the meeting, saying the state had changed some key compliance criteria.

It’s clear that the state is feeling its way in the dark on these issues, as Colorado’s regulations on the industry are unique and unprecedented. The auditor – Barbara Gold – seemed friendly enough, and she was open to suggestions and ideas. She also said the state is working to automate procedures, which should help speed things up and cut red tape. And she was sympathetic to the concerns of dispensary owners, admitting there is plenty of room for improvement.

Chris Walsh is the editor of Medical Marijuana Business Daily