Medical marijuana registry numbers on the rise -- again

For the second month in a row, the Colorado medical marijuana registry has seen an increase in the number of patients, definitively ending a six-month stretch of people giving up their red cards. According to stats released by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment last week, a total of 85,124 Coloradans were on the registry as of January 2012 -- an increase of more than 3,000 patients from December 2011.

Other registry stats remain much the same. Women still account for just 32 percent of the patients on the registry, and the average age hasn't budged from 42. The majority of patients are still signing someone else up to be their primary caregiver, which means that there are now at least 10,000 registered caregivers in the state -- assuming that every caregiver is growing for all five patients they are allowed to assist under state law. 

An increase in patients for the second month in a row is significant, but the registry is still 43,500 patients below the peak enrollment recorded back in June 2011. Some former patients have cited privacy concerns over the state's Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division tracking of dispensary sales as a reason for giving up their cards. Around 500 others had their applications denied and must wait at least six months before they can apply again, after the CDPHE ruled that they had seen physician's assistants and not doctors, as required by the state's medical marijuana laws.

According to CDPHE spokesman Mark Salley, 190 people among those denied have filed appeals, and those cases will go on through May.

The $90 registration fee dropped to $35 in January, which could account for some of the increase. February stats should be up in the next few weeks, Salley says, adding that the department's "primary effort is keeping up with processing of applications within the 35-day window, not with updating numbers on our website."

The department is currently processing applications in 32 days or less, he notes.

More from our Marijuana archive: "Medical marijuana: Three Boulder dispensaries near CU got fed shutdown letters" and "Conrado Arellano-Casa among seventeen sentenced in Mexico-to-U.S. pot ring."

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