Becoming a medical marijuana grower in Utah State in the U.S will be a costly proposition.

The state is in a process to approve 10 medical marijuana growers. But it has kept a high entry barrier in terms of hefty application and license fees.

The innocuous application fees for an aspirant will cost $10,000 and the annual licensing fee would be a whopping $100,000, according to the draft rules on Utah's medical marijuana program.

But it is explained that the high license fees are a way to raise funds for deploying personnel and equipment to inspect the growing facilities.

The figures in draft rules are not final yet and may change before the regulations are given the concluding touches.

“They’re in the ballpark”, commented Melissa Ure, a senior policy analyst of Utah's Department of Agriculture and Food. 

 “The legislation does require this program to fund itself,”  Ure told media.

The state’s agricultural department plans to spend more than $560,000 every year to monitor cannabis cultivation and it has plans to launch a digital platform to track each plant until the point of sale.

Costs inevitable for serious growers

Concerns are out that the costs are too steep.  However, Tom Paskett, executive director of the Utah Cannabis Association says the high costs should not deter individuals who are serious about joining the medical marijuana business.

“If you don’t have those kinds of funds you probably don’t have the capacity to run this element of the business in a way that’s best going to serve the patient community,” Paskett noted.

The draft rules are also explicit on guidelines regarding security, pesticide use, cannabis waste disposal, and other issues.

In disposing of cannabis waste, rules insist cultivators grind down leaves and trimmings and mix with trash to make it unusable and having video surveillance.

Again, Paskett said these proposals are not surprising.

“It's kind of what you'd expect, given Utah's political leanings," He noted that some people have started to “compare our regulations to Arizona in their restrictiveness, so this is right about where you'd expect Utah to land.”

Preparations for the medical marijuana program

Utah has been ramping up to launch the medical marijuana program by the end of the year. Voters have already legalized medical marijuana in the state.

A medical marijuana deal was also passed last year endorsed by legislative leaders, church officials, and proposition sponsors.

The cannabis legislation passed by Utah lawmakers in December had set a March deadline for issuing patient cards. 

However, the deal faces a legal challenge. Two medical marijuana advocacy groups took it to a federal court.

They argue the deal is unconstitutional and seeks to replace a law passed by voters. They also raised questions whether the changes are at odds with federal laws that hold marijuana as illegal.

Public comments on the draft will be recorded by agriculture officials at public hearings until June 5. It may take a few more months to get the rules finalized.

In the U.S,  33 states and Washington, DC  have legalized medical marijuana although their approaches vary. Some states allow both medical marijuana dispensaries and home cultivation. But some restrict home cultivation.

In marijuana, the chemical THC or tetrahydrocannabinol is mainly responsible for psychological effects, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.