Breckenridge pot shops angry over high fees
summit daily news
BRECKENRIDGE – With state regulations redesignating medical marijuana dispensaries as medical marijuana centers, the existing businesses are now facing approximately $6,500 or more in licensure fees from the Town of Breckenridge.
“I was surprised to learn that after being in business (for a year), I’m being treated as a new business and being hit with a fee that pushes $7,000,” Charlie Williams, owner of Alpenglow Botanicals told council members at a recent meeting.
Owners of several medical marijuana centers (MMCs) turned out for the meeting to protest the increased fees, which, for the first year, are nearly double the fees paid by liquor establishments.
But council members were reluctant to change the fees, saying they helped make up for the money the town spent over the last two years dealing with policies and enforcement issues around the MMCs.
“I think these people got into this business because they saw a whole bunch of money in this industry and it turns out that it’s not as easy as they thought it would be,” Councilwoman Jen McAtamney said later in the meeting. “I feel like we have jumped through every hoop possible.”
The medical marijuana centers in Breckenridge paid approximately $1,000 in licensure fees when they first started their businesses in previous years. But when the state redesignated the shops as “centers” rather than “dispensaries” – a move that came with a number of policies and regulations – it increased initial licensure fees to more than $8,700 and subsequent yearly fees to $6,500.
The town then drafted its fee structures based on state licensure expenses.
Medical marijuana retailers with between 6-300 customers now pay $5,600 in new business licensure fees, centers with 300-500 customers pay $9,300 in fees and those with 500 or more customers pay upwards of $13,000 the first year, according to Williams. Businesses with grow centers pay an additional $900. Licenses drop to approximately half the initial cost after the first year.
Medical marijuana retailers pointed out, however, that their business requires far less police and staff time and energy than the bars in town.
“We’ve been pushed out of the main part of town and the real problem there is the drinking establishments,” Williams said
The Breckenridge medical marijuana industry’s angst over high fees coincides with a ballot question – to appear on the ballot in November – asking Breck voters to approve a 5 percent excise tax on medical marijuana sales.
Some council members said they worried anger over the high licensure fees would incite medical marijuana retailers to rally voters and campaign against the measure.
MMC owners have already said they are opposed to the excise tax proposal, both because the tax is not imposed on other medicines and because it increases product costs at the centers, making “black-market” marijuana more attractive to buyers.
The licensure fees are intended to help offset costs marijuana policymaking and enforcement has incurred over the last few years. The marijuana excise tax is meant to cover similar costs going forward, town council members said at Tuesday’s meeting.
Council directed town staffers to research the license fee structure and costs and to come back with additional information at a future meeting.
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