Dear Stoner: After working in the liquor industry for too long, I want to start my own weed business — but I’ve been told the fees are way higher. Why?
Dear Cynthia: The state application fees for prospective cannabis business owners can dwarf those for liquor licenses. Recreational dispensary license application fees run $4,500 (grows and infused-product manufacturers pay $4,000), while liquor license fees are $1,100 to $1,400. Medical marijuana dispensaries pay $7,000 in state application fees, and renewal fees for both medical and recreational pot businesses cost $1,800, compared to $100 to $600 for liquor licensees. It doesn’t take a beautiful mind to see the differences here.
According to the Colorado Department of Revenue, its Marijuana Enforcement Division (the state watchdog for pot licensees) is fully funded by business licensing fees, not tax revenue, and aims to collect “roughly the same amount in fees that we need to fund operations.” Considering that the cannabis trade is still relatively new compared to the liquor industry (not to mention federally illegal), the DOR is essentially saying that regulating pot costs more than regulating liquor. However, those application costs have gone down over the past few years — even if the amount you need to fund all other aspects of a small pot business has not.
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