Enrollment in Colorado’s medical marijuana program has tumbled since the state enacted tough new MMJ regulations this summer, with 26,106 patients dropping off the active registry in just three months.
According to the latest stats from the Colorado Department of Public Health, 102,592 patients had medical marijuana cards as of Sept. 30, down 20 percent from 128,698 in June.
The reasons behind the precipitous decline are unclear at this point. Some of the decrease is no doubt related to strict new laws on dispensary operations, which went into effect July 1. The regulations cover everything from packaging, labeling and inventory to sanitation, storage and security. Many patients had expressed concerns over privacy issues tied to the new laws, particularly the regulations requiring dispensaries to have 24/7 video surveillance and stream it online so state regulators can access the feed at any time. This is a huge red flag for some patients, given that medical marijuana is still illegal federally.
Another factor in the decline could be the wait time for renewals, according to Westword, an alternative newspaper in Denver. Although state officials say it takes less than 35 days to renew a card – which is required annually – some patients report having to wait much longer. The registry numbers, therefore, might not reflect a significant backlog of patients who are waiting to receive their cards.
Industry insiders said last summer that, at nearly 130,000 patients, the market had reached its limits for the time being. In other words, there’s only so many people who need medical marijuana in Colorado, and most of those who do have already registered for cards. Experts say that patients who dropped off the registry likely are still getting marijuana, just not through legal channels.
The latest report on Colorado’s patient registry contains some other interesting data:
– 68 percent of patients are male
– The average age of patients is 41
– 94 percent report that they need medical marijuana for “severe pain,” while 18 percent cite muscle spasms and 12 percent list severe nausea (patients can report more than one medical condition)
– Denver County is home to the most registered medical marijuana patients, with 15 percent of the total, followed El Paso County (12 percent)