Marijuana: Have 19,000 Patients Dropped Off MMJ Registry This Year?

Marijuana: Have 19,000 Patients Dropped Off MMJ Registry This Year?

Medical marijuana patient numbers dipped to their second lowest total since recreational cannabis sales began in January. As of the end of July, there were 111,804 medical marijuana patients on the Colorado Medical Marijuana Registry according to Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment statistics -- just 825 patients more than were on the list January 1 -- even though more than 20,000 new-patient applications were submitted over that span.

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The huge gulf between new patient applications and the minuscule increase in actual patients with red cards would suggest that more than 19,000 patients have dropped off the registry in the first six months of the year.

Active patient numbers have been slowly and steadily dropping since April, when the registry reached 116,180 patients -- the highest number since 2011. Many had predicted that the registry would start shrinking as more patients opted out of doctor visits and registering with the state in favor of purchasing their meds at a recreational shop -- and the July tax figures indicate that those predictions could be coming true.

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For the first time, recreational sales outpaced the medical kind in Colorado, albeit only by $608,000. Of course, this could also be because July is the busiest tourism month for Colorado -- although it's impossible to determine if tourism made the difference, since tax figures don't break down resident and out-of-stater purchases. The MMJ statistics are easier to analyze: Despite the fact that there were about 744 more patients at the end of July than there were at the end of January, medical marijuana patients spent $2.57 million less in dispensaries in July than they did in January.

The number of minors on the registry also dropped for the first time in more than a year. In June 2013,, there were just 39 people under the age of eighteen on the registry. That number skyrocketed to 257 patients just a year later, in June 2014, then slid slightly to 251 in July.

Other statistics remained much the same. The average age of patients is still 42, and men represent 66 percent of red-card holders. Most patients reside in the seven-county Denver metro area; about 19,170, or 19 percent, live in Denver proper. El Paso County has the second-highest concentration of patients, with 16,420. Severe pain still accounts for the reason that 93 percent of all patients want medical marijuana; muscle spasms are the second-most-recommended condition, accounting for 14 percent. In addition, 53 percent of patients have designated a primary caregiver or a medical marijuana center to grow for them; in recent years that has broken down to about 10 to 15 percent with private caregivers.


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