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Marijuana card fees to help budget crisis

1:31 PM, Aug 24, 2010   |    comments
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On Monday night, a medical marijuana lawyer questioned the legality of that move

In order to get a medical marijuana card, patients have to pay $90.

The state is expecting 150,000 applicants in the 2010-2011 fiscal year, which means the state is expecting to earn $13.5 million.

Monday, Ritter announced he plans on using $9 million of those funds to help with the budget shortfall.

"With this money we looked at a cash fund balance that is pretty significant and are utilizing that for our own balancing purposes," Ritter said.

The governor's move is not sitting well with medical marijuana lawyer Rob Corry.

"It's illegal, it's unconstitutional and it's wrong. These are suffering patients. They don't have a lot of money, and the state government should not be balancing their budget on their backs," Corry said.

Corry says the card fees are supposed to be used for the program's administrative costs.

He cites Colorado Constitution Article 18, Section 14, Amendment 20 that says: "The state health agency may determine and levy reasonable fees to pay for any direct or indirect administrative costs associated with its role in this program."

"It doesn't say they may levy fees to pay off the state government living beyond its means," Corry said.

"We feel very confident that we're able to do that," Ritter said when asked about the legality of the move.

"Cash fund transfers are allowed as part of a budget balancing plan. This happens all the time," Ritter's budget director, Todd Saliman, said.

"What Governor Ritter is inviting, unfortunately, is probably a lawsuit," Corry said.

Corry says he's willing to sue the state on behalf of medical marijuana patients.

The governor did say he doesn't foresee the state using money from the card fees each year to solve budget problems.

(KUSA-TV © 2010 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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