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Medical Marijuana Business Fees Would add $1.1 Million to City Coffers

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Licensing fees being proposed for medical marijuana businesses in Colorado Springs would pump about $1.1 million into city coffers this year.

The proposed fees, which business owners say are excessive and unfair when compared to other types of businesses, will be considered by the City Council on Tuesday. The council meets at 1 p.m. at City Hall, 107 N. Nevada Ave.

The proposed fees were the subject of a heated discussion Friday.

"This feels like extortion. I don't know a better way to describe it," dispensary owner Cathy Bucher said during a public hearing at the City Administration Building.

"The city sees an opportunity to get more money," said Bucher, adding that she invested her life savings to get her business going and is now broke.

"Our industry is struggling to stay afloat," she said. "You can't squeeze blood out of a turnip."

The proposed fees are designed to pay the "direct and indirect" costs to review, process, issue and enforce the licenses. The City Clerk's Office, the local licensing authority, said the rationale behind the proposed fees is that possessing a medical marijuana license is a privilege, so taxpayers shouldn't incur the costs. The number of active sales licenses issued by the city to dispensaries and grow operations stood at 160 in April.

"There are no other businesses that we license that are regulated through the city that are like this particular business," City Clerk Kathryn Young said in an interview.

"The cost for the application alone, just for review of the application, the time to put into that, is going to be pretty lengthy. It's a very voluminous application, and we have to wade through that in order to determine whether or not they meet the guidelines that the state has (created) on the local level," she said. "Then you have the hearings that could be a part of that. There's just a lot of different aspects."

The proposed fees include a one-time, $2,200 nonrefundable application fee and annual $1,800 licensing fees for medical marijuana centers, grow operations and manufacturers of infused products, such as brownies and lotions.

Business owners say they're willing to pay their fair share but say the proposed fees are too high.

"Everybody is asking us for money. Everybody," said Luther Bonow, who owns Altitude Organic Medicine on West Colorado Avenue.

"We're not rolling in the dough down here," he said.

New state regulations for medical marijuana businesses go into effect Friday.

Business owners also say they're paying sales taxes and that other types of businesses don't have to pay such high licensing fees.

"Trying to use these application and license fees to create jobs in the Police Department is unfair because that should be paid out of the general fund that the sales tax revenue goes in," said Cliff Black, an attorney who represents several dispensary owners.

The city has received between $52,400 and $64,700 monthly in sales tax revenue this year from the sale of medical marijuana and marijuana-infused products.

Former Councilman Sean Paige, who spoke at Friday's hearing, called the proposed application and licensing fees onerous. The city shouldn't apply a double standard to medical marijuana businesses, which are legal and legitimate, he said.

"We want to be a business-friendly city. That's what we say. That's what a lot of candidates ran on this last election, the council candidates, the mayoral candidates," he said.

"But it starts here. Being a business-friendly city starts right now. That doesn't mean bending over and giving away things to any industry. But it means being as cognizant as we can (about) the cost (that we're passing to) small business people," he said.

News Hawk- Jacob Ebel 420 MAGAZINE
Source: gazette.com
Author: Daniel Chacon
Contact: Contact Us
Copyright: Freedom Communications
Website: Medical marijuana business fees would add $1.1 million to city coffers
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