Medical marijuana patient numbers up again: Are high recreational pot taxes the reason?

Medical marijuana patient numbers up again: Are high recreational pot taxes the reason?

The Colorado Medical Marijuana Patient Registry continued its slow but steady climb in March according to statistics released by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. As of March 31, there were 115,208 active red cards in the state -- up 1,767 people from the month before.

As has been the case for nearly a year now, the number of children under the age of eighteen on the medical marijuana registry increased, from 248 to 285 patients between February and March. But even with that rise in the number of minors, the average age of medical marijuana patients increased from 41 years old to 42 years old in March.

Despite additional red cards, some people are still dropping off the registry, though. Once again, the state reported receiving more new patient applications than the number of new red cards issued, indicating that as many as 1,900 people left the registry or let their cards expire without renewal. CDPHE spokesman Mark Salley says that while roughly 11 percent of applications are rejected because they need to be corrected, actual denials are rare.

Of patients with active red cards, about 56 percent designate a caregiver or a medical marijuana center to grow their herb. The registry doesn't break down those figures further, but Salley provides a "snapshot" of data from March 26, when 4,944 patients had a private caregiver and 53,747 people allotted their plants to a medical marijuana center. There may be a slight overlap in those numbers, but it's likely insignificant, as both patients under eighteen and home-bound patients can have both a caregiver and an MMC grow for them.

Anyone with a red card can purchase medical marijuana at an MMJ dispensary. And patients are definitely purchasing marijuana: According to data from the Colorado Department of Revenue, there was a whopping $34.4 million in medical marijuana sold here in March, generating about $1 million in sales-tax revenue for the state. Of that total, $16.7 million was sold in Denver County alone. In comparison, sales of retail cannabis were much lower. Colorado retailers sold $19.6 million worth of marijuana in March, with $8.9 million of that in Denver.

Recreational marijuana tax revenue was much higher, however, due to a 15 percent excise tax and 10 percent special sales tax on top of the 2.9 percent state sales tax. In total, Colorado collected about $3 million in tax revenue from recreational marijuana in March.

Many have speculated that the high tax rate on recreational cannabis will push recreational cannabis customers to acquire red cards, and several recreational/medical dual-use dispensaries have been using their ads to openly suggest that people do just that.

More from our Marijuana archive: "Weed profiling: Nebraska county cites Colorado drivers for pot, etc. more than Nebraska ones" and "Pot brownies legal in Colorado could land Texas' Jacob Lavoro in jail for life."

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