SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Becoming one of Utah’s 10 approved medical marijuana growers in the state’s new program won’t be cheap.
The Salt Lake Tribune reports the state plans to charge a $10,000 application fee and an additional $100,000 annual licensing fee for those chosen, according to draft rules for Utah’s new medical marijuana program published last week.
State officials say the license fees are meant to offset the expense of adding personnel and equipment to inspect the growing facilities.
If all 10 grower licenses are granted, revenues to the agriculture department could top $1.1 million the first year and hover around $1 million over the following years as cultivators pay the renewal fee.
The state’s agricultural department expects to spend more than $560,000 each year to oversee cannabis cultivation and plant sales. State officials predict these costs will likely rise over time as the program grows.
Medical marijuana advocates say the proposed cost to become a grower is steep but shouldn’t deter people serious about entering the business.
The draft rules also set detailed guidelines on security, pesticide use, cannabis waste and other issues concerning growers. According to the rules, cultivators must grind down leaves and trimmings and mix them with trash to render the cannabis unusable and install video surveillance.
Tom Paskett, the executive director of the Utah Cannabis Association, said the proposals were unsurprising.
“It’s kind of what you’d expect, given Utah’s political leanings,” he said. “I’ve heard folks compare some of our regulations to Arizona in their restrictiveness, so this is right about where you’d expect Utah to land.”
Agriculture officials will be accepting public comment on the draft over the next few weeks, and they are holding a public hearing on the proposed rules June 5. The rules are expected to take months to finalize.
The state is ramping up to start the medical marijuana program later this year. Legislative leaders, church officials and proposition sponsors passed a medical marijuana deal earlier this year after voters legalized medical marijuana. It bans many marijuana edibles, prevents people from growing marijuana if they live far from a dispensary and makes fewer medical conditions eligible for treatment with pot.
A lawsuit by two medical marijuana advocacy groups still pending in federal court says it was unconstitutional to replace a law passed by voters and raises questions about whether the changes are at odds with federal laws that still say marijuana is illegal.