Marijuana: Recreational sales didn't change medical patient numbers in January

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Despite the start of recreational sales, there was no drop in active-patient red cards in January. According to statistics released by the Colorado Department of Health and Environment last week, the number of registered medical marijuana patients in the state actually grew by a few dozen people between the end of December and the end of January.

But that doesn't mean people weren't dropping off the registry. Between December 2013 and January 2014, the department received 3,392 new patient applications -- but the increase in active red cards was only 52. That means that more than 3,000 people left the registry -- continuing a trend we've seen over the past eighteen months or so. During that time, there have been only one or two months when the number of people being added to the registry was greater than the number of people dropping off.

Activists and state officials alike had predicted that patients would drop off the registry in droves once recreational cannabis was legal and patients could buy or grow what they wanted, forgoing the $15 registration, $60 to $100 doctor's fee, and requirement to hand over medical information to a questionably secure state list. And while several dispensary-going patients we've spoken with say that was originally their plan, the sticker shock of price-jacked recreational cannabis selling for twice as much as medical cannabis made them rethink that. After all, the money saved on a single purchase of even a quarter-ounce of medical cannabis versus recreational cannabis pays for the MMJ registry and doctor's fees.

Medical cannabis sales reflected that change in thinking, with $31.5 million in medical marijuana sales in January compared to $14.3 million in recreational cannabis sales -- though it's worth noting that only a handful of recreational stores were licensed to open that first month.

Other stats were far from startling. As usual, men make up most of the registry (67 percent), and a patient's average age is 41. Nearly all patients (94 percent) report having severe pain, while only 10 percent say they have either nausea or muscle spasms. Other qualifying conditions such as cancer, HIV, AIDS and seizures are even more rare in the patient population (1 to 2 percent).

But the number of minors on the registry saw another big jump between December and January, from 199 kids to 215. That number has been steadily increasing since last August, when a CNN special on medical cannabis treatments for children with seizure disorders inspired many families to relocate to Colorado from home states that don’t allow for such treatments.

More from our marijuana news archive: "State Supreme Court says lawyers can legally advise cannabis businesses" ; "Hemp Box: Denver-based startup aims to send subscribers monthly box of hemp products"

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