Medical marijuana statistics show slight rise in patients during 2013

Even though Colorado received more than 40,000 new medical marijuana patient applications in 2013, the total number of active patients on the state's registry stayed about the same as in 2012, when voters went beyond MMJ to let adults 21 and over to use and possess small amounts of cannabis.

As of January 1, 2014, according to statistics just released by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, there were 110,979 active red cards -- only 2,453 more than at the end of 2012.

The gap between new applications and the actual increase in cards suggests that as many as 37,000 medical marijuana patients dropped off the registry or failed to renew their cards in 2013. While some of the gap could be attributed to rejected applications, the CDPHE hasn't usually turned down applications in large numbers.

The registry has yet to see the drastic dip in patients that some activists and state officials predicted would occur after the passage of Amendment 64 allowed adults in Colorado to cultivate their own cannabis as well as purchase it at recreational stores. So far, it seems that the newfound freedom of home cultivation hasn't affected the registry much.

But since recreational sales just started in January, it's still too early to tell what impact those sales will ultimately have. While not registering with the state is attractive to some, the high taxes and prices associated with recreational sales could keep many of Colorado's dispensary-shopping medical marijuana patients on the registry. And there are plenty of those patients -- and plenty of money coming from them, too. According to Colorado Department of Revenue data, more than $328.64 million in legal medical marijuana sales in 2013 netted the state about $9.11 million in tax revenue.

The new information does reveal a few slight changes to registry statistics. While the average patient age is still 41 and the majority of patients continue to live in metro Denver, the number of women on the registry increased slightly, from 34 percent in 2012 to 35 percent in 2013. So did the average age of women on the registry: from 43 years old to 44 years old. The number of patients designating a primary center or private caregiver also increased, from 54 percent to 57 percent -- or about 4,654 people total.

And while the number of people on the registry as a whole didn't grow substantially in 2013, the stats related to minors under eighteen jumped significantly -- from just 35 minors at the end of 2012 to 199 at the end of 2013. That surge in patients was largely fueled by national media interest in CBD treatments for children suffering from severe seizure disorders. The poster child for that movement is Charlotte Figi, a Colorado Springs girl who was suffering from hundreds of seizures daily caused by Dravet Syndrome until her parents began giving her measured doses of CBD oil; CNN's coverage of that story went around the globe.

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William Breathes
Contact: William Breathes