After peaking for 2013 at 112,862 patients in August, the state medical marijuana registry went into a two-month decline, losing more than 2,000 patients by November, when the total was 110,785 registered medical marijuana users.
But even if the overall numbers are lower, the amount of money spent by MMJ patients is considerable. According to State of Colorado figures, the total topped $328 million -- well over $100 million more than the figure reported for the previous year.
Data released by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reveals that the decline in active-patient red cards came despite an increase of nearly 7,500 new-patient registrations during the same time frame. The disparity between the two figures is mostly attributed to patients dropping off the registry or failing to renew their cards.
Some have speculated that recreational sales could impact registry numbers, as patients look to avoid a doctor's visit, a fee to the state and inclusion in the increasingly less private patient registry. But because CDPHE figures only go through this past November, it is too early to tell if recreational sales have had any impact on patient numbers.
However, medical patients who've been thinking about dropping their registration might think again when they see the high tax rate (and high prices) on recreational cannabis -- especially since the patient registry fee drops to $15 in February.
While it's too early to know how retail marijuana will affect medical sales, we now know the total amount of MMJ sales for 2013. Despite the decrease in medical patients in October and November, sales increased from $77 million in the third quarter of 2013 alone to more than $94.3 million in sales in the fourth quarter of the year.
At a tax rate of 2.9 percent, the 2013 sales translate to about $9 million collected by the State of Colorado during that year -- an increase of about $3.13 million over 2012. If that same total had been taxed at the 12.9 percent combined state sales taxes tacked onto recreational sales, however, it would have generated much more for the state: $42,395,452, to be specific.
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Medical (and recreational) sales figures for the first quarter of 2014 are expected in March.
In the meantime, it's clear that one segment of the medical population is growing considerably: Colorado now has 140 minors under the age of eighteen on the medical marijuana registry -- all with approval from their parents and a physician. That number has grown sharply since an August CNN special focusing on the medical benefits of high-CBD plants for children with seizure disorders.
At the time the special aired, there were only 53 children on the registry. Since then, dozens of families from such states as Florida, New Jersey and New York have moved to Colorado in search of CBD treatments.
More from our Marijuana archive: "Marijuana bought with food stamps? New bill aims to prevent claims in joke news story" and "Ten best marijuana concentrates of 2013."