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Medical marijuana patient numbers rise in December, but are people still leaving registry?

After a significant dip in patient numbers from October to November 2012, we questioned whether the number of registered medical marijuana patients would decline steadily over the coming months, as some critics and activists have surmised.

But new statistics released this week show the decline in active patients wasn't permanent -- at least not yet.

December statistics from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment show that patient numbers increased from 106,763 patients in November to 108,526 registered patients in December. The increase offsets the November loss, but not by much: The December total is only 45 people higher than October's.

Of course, people could still be dropping off the registry despite the increase in the active patient count. While the number of active patients rose 1,763 patients from November to December, the total number of patient applications increased by 2,672. According to the CDPHE, no denials have been issued in the last 35 days, which indicates that about 910 patients dropped off the registry between November and December 2012. The same has been true pretty much every month over the last year.

Several activists predicted a sharp dip in patient numbers once Amendment 64 was passed. Although the amendment limits the amount of legal marijuana someone can possesses to one ounce, it also legalized the cultivation of up to six cannabis plants -- the same amount allowed under state medical marijuana laws. Some on the scene argue that there is no need for the protections of a state medical marijuana card unless you frequent dispensaries.

For the most part, the rest of the registry stats remained the same as they have for the last two-plus years. Men still make up about 68 percent of total registrants, with the average age around 41. Women patients are slightly older, on average, coming in at age 43. Most patients still live in the seven-county Denver-metro area, with 52 percent signing up either a primary caregiver or a medical marijuana dispensary as their source of medicine. That figure isn't broken down further, but in the past, CDPHE officials have said most of these patients opt for a dispensary over a caregiver.

More from our Marijuana archive: "Medical marijuana dispensary review: Green Mountain Care in Littleton" and "Free pot for $50 bumper sticker site vanishes."


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