Marijuana: Recreational sales down, patient numbers and medical pot sales up

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It's been three-and-a-half months since the start of recreational cannabis sales in Colorado, but recent stats show that medical marijuana sales still far outpace recreational sales -- even with a patient base of fewer than 114,000 people.

Retail sales tax collected in the state in February for retail cannabis sales was about half that collected from medical sales, according to Colorado Department of Revenue data. Medical marijuana sales were somewhere around the $35 million mark, while retail sales totaled about $15 million.

In February, medical marijuana sales outpaced state projections by more than $400,000, while retail sales failed to hit state estimates by almost $400,000.

According to Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment figures, the number of registered medical marijuana card-holders grew from January to February by almost 2,500 people, topping out at 113,441 patients as of February 28. The total number of new applications was somewhere around 3,471; CDPHE officials say the state hasn't denied any applications lately, although out of the 1,100 applications they process each month, about 11 percent are rejected for things like errors and corrections.

Included in this year's patient increase are some 33 additional minors, bringing the total number of children under the age of eighteen on the registry to 248. That number has skyrocketed since February 2013, when there were just 39 minors signed up to access legal medical cannabis with a parent's permission.

About 54 percent of all patients have designated a primary caregiver or a medical marijuana center to grow cannabis in their name. We asked the CDPHE's Mark Salley about the caregiver totals, and he provided a "snapshot" of data from March, saying the information is "dynamic and changes daily" -- though the ratio has stayed roughly the same for the past year. According to that snapshot, 4,944 patients had a private caregiver last month, and 53,747 people had given their growing privileges to a medical marijuana center. Salley also notes that patients under eighteen as well as homebound patients can designate both a caregiver and an MMC to be their primary grower.

Those numbers could soon change, however. The state currently licenses about 3,300 caregivers; out of those, about 24 have licenses to grow for more than five patients -- something the CDPHE says it would like to end. And this month, letters were sent to caregivers serving more than five patients, warning them that they would be under review.

More from our Marijuana archive: "Spice bust in Loveland puts focus on dangers of "synthetic marijuana" and "Denver hotel searches for 4/20 weekend up 73 percent."

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