Colorado’s medical marijuana program continues to recover from a huge exodus of patients a year ago, recording a 1.3% monthly rise in the number of residents with active ID cards.
The state’s official patient registry hit 101,220 members at the end of July, according to the latest statistics released this week by the Colorado health department. That’s about 1,260 more than the previous month.
Still, the numbers are way down from a year ago: In July 2011, the registry boasted 127,816 patients with active cards.
Patient numbers fell precipitously last fall after the state introduced a host of new regulations, some of which require dispensaries to track and record patient transactions closely and share that information with the government. That spooked many patients over privacy concerns. At the same time, some patients were waiting to renew their cards until the start of 2012 to take advantage of lower fees. As a result of these two factors, the number of patients with active cards plunged from 128,698 in June of last year – just before the new regulations took hold – to 80,558 by November, a 37% decline.
Since then, however, the registry has been growing on a monthly basis, though the pace has begun to slow.
The recovery gives dispensaries in the state a bigger client base than they had last fall, helping to strengthen the industry. It’s a much-needed boost for MMJ businesses, which have been struggling amid challenges on many fronts.
Several hundred dispensaries and grow sites in Colorado have gone out of business over the past year. Some of them no doubt saw their client pool shrink as the registry declined. Others succumbed to pressure from the federal government or foundered under the new regulatory burdens.