Marijuana

Where Colorado's MMJ Patient Population Ranks in the Top Ten States

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6. Oregon – 77,620 (as of January 2016)
One of four states to legalize medical marijuana and infamous for its low prices for flower – $202.14 for a high-quality ounce versus $241.17 in Colorado – Oregon has long been known as a haven for outdoor marijuana and alternative medicine practices. Despite prohibiting out-of-state medical cards in 2016 (it was previously the only state to allow them), Oregon's medical marijuana program is one of the oldest in the country and ties for third in the ASA report card, gaining high marks for its patient-arrest protection and wide range of qualifying conditions.

5. Arizona – 89,405 (as of January 2016)
Traditionally conservative Arizona makes a surprise appearance in the top five. Arizona's medical marijuana program is still relatively young; the enabling legislation passed in 2010, and there were no open dispensaries until late 2012. Now that pot shops are up and running, the state's patient registry has exploded over the past two years, more than doubling from the 44,674 active patients registered in 2013. Arizona also earned the third-best rating from ASA, with the best grade for patient rights and civil protection (98/100) of all medical states.

4. Colorado – 108,675 (as of February 2016)
Although slightly declining as recreational dispensaries and products begin to gain popularity, Colorado's registry still boasts the highest number of patients per 1,000 residents in the country, at 19.8, according to ProCon.org. And despite scoring low ASA grades for product safety and patient rights and civil protections, our state is praised for its functionality and access to medicine. Judging by the 200-plus dispensaries in Denver, we can endorse that appraisal.

3. Washington – 138,056 (MPP estimate as of March 2016)
The second state to legalize recreational marijuana, Washington has a medical program that's significantly less regulated than its retail counterpart. Because of the lack of regulation, patients and growers aren't currently required to register with the state, causing many medical products to go untested. All of that is going to change in July, however, when a recently signed bill that basically applies recreational industry regulations to medical marijuana goes into effect in the state.

2. Michigan – 182,091 (as of January 2016)
Another surprise at the top of the list, Michigan has quickly become the Colorado of the Midwest, with a high number of dispensaries and decriminalized laws for marijuana possession. Although quite welcoming to medical marijuana patients when compared to other states,  Michigan placed seventh in the ASA report card with a D- grade and, for some reason, spells its Medical Marihuana Program with an "h" — as though we were still in the 1800s.

1. California – 758,607 (MPP estimate as of March 2016)
Because patients aren't required to register with the state, experts have to estimate the number of California patients — but the MPP insists that this is a conservative prediction. The sheer size of California isn't the only reason that its patient pool dwarfs others; its 19.4 MMJ patients per 1,000 residents is second only to that of Colorado, according to ProCon.org. Tied for first on the ASA report card with a B+, California's medical program has the largest marijuana market in the country to work with, according to Marijuana Business Daily, and that's without a recreational market. If California legalizes recreational marijuana in November, the entire landscape of legal pot could permanently shift.

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Thomas Mitchell has written about all things cannabis for Westword since 2014, covering sports, real estate and general news along the way for publications such as the Arizona Republic, Inman and Fox Sports. He's currently the cannabis editor for westword.com.
Contact: Thomas Mitchell