Medical marijuana deluge: Number of Colorado MMJ patients passes 100,000 mark

Ron Hyman, the state's registrar of vital statistics, knows that the deluge of medical marijuana registry applications his office receives daily has to stop eventually. After all, he jokes, Colorado only has five million residents. But given the latest numbers, this humorous line has a certain ring of truth.

As of this month, about 105,000 people have applied to the registry for cards -- which amounts to roughly 2 percent of the state's population. To put it another way, the number of would-be medical marijuana patients in Colorado now exceeds the total population of Pueblo -- and it's significantly higher than the percentage of Coloradans who identify themselves as American Indian.

Still, only a fraction of those Coloradans have received their official medical marijuana ID cards: 32,000 in 2010, Hyman says, with a backlog of 73,000 people whose applications are still being processed. To deal with that mountain of paperwork, Colorado's department of health has added 56 temporary employees this year, twenty of whom were hired over the past three weeks. If all goes as planned, the backlog should be eliminated over the next eight months.

If applications don't continue to increase exponentially, that is. As Hyman notes, "We are aware of people moving to Colorado because of this."

Ever the optimist, Hyman focus on the day -- sooner or later -- when his office's storage closets will finally be blissfully free of MMJ applications. "That will be a day to celebrate," he says. And he's sure it's coming. After all, he repeats, "There's only five million in the state."

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Joel Warner is a former staff writer for Westword and International Business Times. He's also written for WIRED, Men's Journal, Men's Health, Bloomberg Businessweek, Popular Science, Slate, Grantland and many other publications. He's co-author of the 2014 book The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny, published by Simon & Schuster.
Contact: Joel Warner