Pot registry in decline in Routt County, state | SteamboatToday.com

Pot registry in decline in Routt County, state

Number of medical marijuana patients has dropped here and across state

Jack Weinstein

— The number of registered medical marijuana patients has decreased 35 percent in Routt County since June 2011, a trend that mirrors statewide numbers.

As of Dec. 31, 2011, the state Department of Public Health and Environment reported 82,089 registered medical marijuana cardholders across Colorado. That's down from a high of 128,698 on June 30, 2011. In Routt County, the number of cardholders dropped from 1,190 to 778 during the same time frame.

Mark Salley, a Department of Public Health and Environment spokesman, wouldn't speculate as to the reason for the decline.

"You could probably ask 10 different people and get 10 different answers," he said this week. "I don't want to speak as the authority on this because there's a lot of viewpoints as to why the registry numbers have fallen."

The Department of Public Health and Environment maintains the registry in addition to being the state agency responsible for reviewing patient applications. Those applications must include a doctor's recommendation, as is required by the constitutional amendment approved by Colorado voters in 2000.

Rocky Mountain Remedies co-owner Kevin Fisher said the hassle of getting a registry card through the state — a process that can take up to several months — and the industry's changing rules and regulations likely have turned some patients away.

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But even with fewer registered medical marijuana patients in Routt County, Fisher said his Steamboat Springs dispensary business hasn't been affected.

"We make a concerted effort to help patients who need to have a card renewed in Steamboat," he said. "We haven't really seen the numbers drop in our shop. We haven't seen a (one-third) drop."

D & C Medical Marijuana & Therapeutic Massage co-owner Daryl Levin also said he hasn't lost any patients. He said D & C actually is looking for a new location that would allow the business to expand.

Fisher added that other contributing factors to the registry decline could be that the "newness" of medical marijuana has worn off, and a backlog of applications being held up by the Department of Public Health and Environment.

A news release dated Dec. 9 stated that the department held 4,200 applications received between Sept. 5 and Dec. 5 to investigate whether they were fraudulent. The agency was investigating whether certain physicians signed recommendations for patients they never actually had seen, and in some cases whether a recommendation came from someone other than a physician.

Of those 4,200 applications held up by the Department of Public Health and Environment, Salley said 442 were denied. State law permits patients to reapply six months after a denial unless they win an appeal. Salley said 189 appealed the decision, and those cases are starting to be heard.

Fisher thinks the Medical Marijuana Registry will rebound, a process that appears to already be under way. The number of statewide registered medical marijuana users dipped to 80,558 on Nov. 30 but then increased in December.

The registry may become less desirable for some residents if Amendment 64 is approved by Colorado voters this fall. The amendment would make it legal for adults 21 and older to possess as much as 1 ounce of marijuana and six plants.

A previous statewide measure to legalize marijuana failed in 2006, with 59 percent of voters rejecting it. According to Steamboat Today archives, 53 percent of Routt County voters supported the measure.

Registered medical marijuana cardholders in 2011

Date, Colorado, Routt County

Dec. 31, 82,089, 778

Nov. 30, 80,558, 752

Oct. 31, 88,872, 826

Sept. 30, 102,592, 984

Aug. 31, 121,476, 1,135

July 31, 127,816, 1,179

June 30, 128,698, 1,190

May 31, 127,444, 1,183

April 30, 126,005, 1,170

March 31, 123,890, 1,143

Feb. 28, 121,430, 1,118

Jan. 31, 118,895, 1,089

Source: Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment

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