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Medical marijuana registry numbers still on the rise after five months

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The medical marijuana patient registry saw an increase in patients for five straight months through April 2012, bringing the total number of Coloradans with medical marijuana cards to 96,709. According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the registry is still 32,000 names below its all-time high.

The peak occurred in June 2011, when the registry was comprised of 128,698 patients. But between July and November last year, there was a steady decline in patients on the roster. Critics of medical marijuana regulations passed by the Colorado Legislature blame the decrease on rules governing the industry that went into effect in July 2010, including requiring cameras in dispensaries. The list lost another 500 patients in December and January, after the CDPHE said that people who’d turned in paperwork with recommendations made by physician’s assistants rather than doctors were not eligible for medical marijuana. Those patients are only just now able to reapply, following the end of the CDPHE’s six-month ban.

But more stringent laws are not the only possible factor leading to last year’s decline. The $90 patient registration fee was another. (That fee was reduced to $35 in January 2012, after which applications began to climb again.)

According to the CDPHE, only a little more than 4,000 patients in the state use medical marijuana for relief from cancer and AIDS. Most recommendations — 90,639 at last count — were for people reporting severe pain. Muscle spasms come in as the second-most-common ailment, and severe nausea is third.

The patient roster isn’t full of twenty-something stoners, either. The average age of men on the registry is 41, and women tend to be even older. The majority of patients are men; women account for just under a third of those on the registry. Most patients live in the seven-county metro area.

One more interesting stat: The percentage of patients designating someone else as a caregiver dropped to 53 percent in April, from 55 percent the month before. That percentage, however, does not reflect the number of patients who sign up a medical marijuana center as their primary grower — a figure the CDPHE has yet to release.

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