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Medical marijuana patient numbers in Colorado decline for fifth month in a row

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For the fifth month in a row, thousands of patients have dropped off the Colorado medical marijuana registry. From October to November 2011, the registry lost more than 8,000 patients, according to statistics released yesterday by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

The number of patients on the registry is now roughly 48,000 lower than its peak enrollment of 128,698 in June 2011. The decline to 80,558 patients shows that more than half of the 161,483 patients who have registered with the program since 2001 have not renewed their cards.

The majority of patients (46,723 or 58 percent) still designate someone as their primary caregiver, although the total number of caregivers seems to have shrunk as well from October to November. Assuming that there is one caregiver for every five of those 46,723 patients means there are at least 9,334 caregivers are currently active.

Other demographic statistics stayed generally the same. Most patients live in the metro area, the average age of the patient registry is 42 and more than 30 percent are women. These states belie the stereotype of twenty-something dudes looking to get stoned that are frequently cited by critics.

Some of the decline can be attributed to patients denied renewal applications for seeing physician assistants instead of doctors. But according to Medical Marijuana Assistance Program of America estimates, this number represents fewer than 500 patients.

Other theories? Some patients may have waited to renew until the registry fee dropped to $35 on January 1, and others may have found cheaper options by either growing their own or turning to the black market.

More from our Marijuana archive: "Marijuana at the Crossroads: Event asks if MMJ lawyers are breaking oath" and "Operation Sweet Leaf raids boost marijuana regulation, says Mason Tvert."

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