America’s One Million Legalized Marijuana Users

  • by Russ Belville, NORML Outreach Coordinator May 31, 2011

    At Least 1 – 1.5 Million Americans are Legal Medical Marijuana Patients

    Market for these patients in sixteen states and D.C. estimated at between $2 – $6 billion annually

    MAY 31, 2011 – We don’t know his or her name, but somewhere in one of sixteen states and the District of Columbia is America’s 1,000,000th legal medical marijuana patient. We estimate the United States reached the million-patients mark sometime between the beginning of the year to when Arizona began issuing patient registry identification cards online in April 2011.

    16 states, the Capitol, and ONE MILLION legal marijuana users.

    Between one to one-and-a-half million people are legally authorized by their state to use marijuana in the United States, according to data compiled by NORML from state medical marijuana registries and patient estimates.  Assuming usage of one-half to one gram of cannabis medicine per day per patient and an average retail price of $320 per ouncethese legal consumers represent a $2.3 to $6.2 billion dollar market annually.

    Based on state medical marijuana laws, the amounts of cannabis these legal marijuana users are entitled to possess means there is between 566 – 803 thousand pounds of legal usable cannabis allowed under state law in America.  These patients are allowed to cultivate between 17 – 24 million legal cannabis plants.  There may possibly be more, as California and New Mexico “limits” may be exceeded with doctor’s permission and some California counties explicitly allow greater amounts, so there may be as much as 1 million pounds of state-legal cannabis allowed under state law in America.

    Active Medical Marijuana State (Total population of sixteen medical marijuana states + D.C. = over 90 million.  D.C., Delaware, and New Jersey programs are not yet active.) # Legal Medical Marijuana Patients (% of state population)
    California (1996) – No central state registry, 2% – 3% of overall population estimate by Dale Gieringer at California NORML by comparing rates in Colorado & Montana. ~750,000 (2.00%)

    ~1,125,000 (3.00%)

    Washington (1998) – No registry, 1% – 1.5% of overall population estimate by Russ Belville at NORML by comparing rates in Oregon & Colorado. ~67,000 (1.00%)

    ~100,000 (1.50%)

    Oregon (1998) – Centralized state registry data published online. 39,774 (1.04%)
    Alaska (1998) – No data online, verified by author’s call to Alaska Bureau of Vital Statistics. 380 (0.05%)
    Maine (1999) – Centralized state registry data published online. 796 (0.06%)
    Nevada (2000) – 2008 figures from ProCon.org, awaiting return call from state for official number. 860 (0.03%)
    Hawaii (2000) – Estimate from Pam Lichty of Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii; program is run by law enforcement who are reluctant to release data. ~8,000 (0.59%)
    Colorado (2000) – Centralized state registry data published online. 123,890 (2.46%)
    Vermont (2004) – No data online, verified by author’s call to Vermont Criminal Information Center. 349 (0.06%)
    Montana (2004) – Centralized state registry data published online. 30,609 (3.09%)
    Rhode Island (2006) – Centralized state registry data published online. 3,069 (0.29%)
    New Mexico (2007) – Centralized state registry data published online. 3,615 (0.18%)
    Michigan (2008) – Centralized state registry data published online. 75,521 (0.76%)
    Arizona (2010) – Centralized state registry data published online. 3,696 (0.06%)
    TOTAL US LEGAL MARIJUANA USERS ~1,100,000 (1.22%)

    ~1,500,000 (1.67%)

    Yet after fifteen years, one million patients, and a million pounds of legal marijuana, few if any of the dire predictions by opponents of medical marijuana have come to fruition.  Medical marijuana states like Oregon are experiencing their lowest-ever rates of workplace fatalities, injuries, and accidents.  States like Colorado are experiencing their lowest rates in three decades of fatal crashes per million miles driven.  In medical marijuana states for which we have data (through Michigan in 2008), use by minor teenagers is down in all but Maine and down by at least 10% in states with the greatest proportion of their population using medical cannabis.

    Medical Marijuana State Age 12-17 Monthly Use When Passed Age 12-17 Monthly Use in 2008 Highway Fatalities When Passed Highway Fatalities in 2009 Workplace Injuries / Illness When Passed Workplace Injuries / Illness in 2009
    California (1996) 7.70% 6.86% 3,989 3,081 7.1% 4.2%
    Washington (1996) 9.90% 7.17% 662 492 9.2% 5.3%
    Oregon (1998) 9.60% 8.22% 538 377 6.8% 4.5%
    Alaska (1998) 10.40% 8.03% 70 64 7.4% 4.6%
    Maine (1999) 7.20% 9.06% 181 159 8.8% 5.6%
    Nevada (2000) 9.54% 7.52% 323 243 7.2% 4.4%
    Hawaii (2000) 8.72% 7.07% 132 109 6.2% 4.2%
    Colorado (2000) 10.80% 9.10% 681 465 n/a n/a
    Vermont (2004) 11.11% 10.86% 98 74 5.6% 5.1%
    Montana (2004) 10.00% 8.60% 229 221 7.2% 5.3%
    Rhode Island (2006) 9.74% 9.46% 81 83 5.2% n/a
    New Mexico (2007) 8.73% 8.19% 413 361 5.0% 4.8%
    Michigan (2008) n/a 7.36% 980 871 4.5% 4.2%

    Fourteen of the seventeen medical marijuana jurisdictions have mandatory registries while two (California and Colorado) offer optional registries and one (Washington) has no registry system.  Estimating California’s patient numbers is hampered by its registry system being on a county-by-county basis.  California NORML’s Dale Gieringer estimates between 2% – 3% of the state’s population are holding medical marijuana recommendations – meaning possibly over one million medical marijuana patients in California alone.

    California’s patient population can be estimated from data from other medical marijuana states where patients are required to register, shown in the table below. The top two of these are Colorado and Montana, which, like California, have a well developed network of cannabis clinics and dispensaries, and which report usage rates of 2.5% and 3.0%, respectively. Other states, where medical marijuana is less developed, report lower rates of 1% and less. However, California is likely to be on the high side because it has the oldest and most liberal law in the nation. Significantly, California is the only state that permits marijuana to be used for any condition for which it provides relief – in particular, psychiatric disorders, such as PTSD, bipolar disorder, ADD, anxiety and depression, which account for some 20%-25% of the total patient population. Adjusting for this, usage in California could be as much as 25% to 33% higher than in Colorado and Montana, which would put it well over 3% of the population (1,125,000).

    A 2%+ patient population estimate is supported by data from the Oakland Patient ID Center, which has been issuing patient identification cards to its members since 1996. The OPIDC serves patients from all over the state, but especially the greater Oakland-East Bay area of Northern California, where its cards are honored by law enforcement. As of 2010, the OPIDC had issued ID’s to 19,805 members from five East Bay cities (Oakland, Berkeley, Alameda, Hayward and Richmond), amounting to 2.4% of the local population.Because the cards were issued over a period of 14 years, they include numerous patients who have lapsed, moved, or deceased. On the other hand, they do not include many other local patients who have current recommendations but never registered with the OPIDC.

    We have made a similar estimate for Washington State’s patients, who are the only ones in the nation with no registry system in place (Gov. Gregoire recently signed a bill that initiates a voluntary registry).  With a law very similar to Oregon’s concerning qualifying conditions, applying Oregon’s 1.04% patient population figure gives us about 69,000 patients in Washington. However, Washington State’s larger urban centers (Seattle and Spokane), combined with a more liberal law than Oregon’s regarding who can sign recommendations (osteopaths, naturopaths, and nurse practitioners can recommend in Washington) and the lack of a state registry’s burden to patient compliance with the program suggests a higher estimate of 1.5% – 2% may be appropriate.  Numbers like Colorado’s 2.5% and Montana’s 3% are improbable as Washington lacks the greater patient access to dispensaries seen in those states.

    Delaware, New Jersey, and D.C.’s programs are not operational yet, so they are not shown in our data table.  Most of the other state’s programs produce reports of patient registry numbers.  With Arizona signing up over 3,600 patients since mid-April, when it’s online-only registration went into effect, Arizona is on track to register over 30,000 patients this year.

    Quick Facts about Medical Marijuana States:

    • The 1.1 – 1.5 million estimated and registered medical marijuana patients in America are legally entitled to cultivate 17 – 24 million cannabis plants and possess 283 –  402 tons of harvested buds.
    • The seventeen jurisdictions with medical marijuana encompass over 90 million Americans and 162 votes in the 2012 Electoral College.
    • Patients make up over 3% of the population of Montana, almost 2.5% of Colorado, over 2% of California. and over 1% of Oregon, and Washington.
    • After Michigan at 0.76% of population, every other medical marijuana state has less than 3 in 1,000 (0.3%) patients in its population.
    • California, Colorado, Washington, Michigan, Oregon, and Montana comprise over 98% of the legal medical marijuana patients in America.
    • More than 3 out of four (77% – 83%) of all medical marijuana patients live on the West Coast.
    • Rhode Island and Vermont, two states where over 10% of the adult population uses marijuana monthly, have patient populations of 0.29% and 0.05%, respectively.
    • Monthly teen use of marijuana is down in every medical marijuana state except Maine.
    • Annual highway fatalities are down in every medical marijuana state except Rhode Island.
    • Incidents of workplace injuries and illnesses are down in every medical marijuana state.

    129 responses to “America’s One Million Legalized Marijuana Users”

    1. Charlotte says:

      Have been a patient for over 10 yrs ever since program began in Oregon. Senior citizen and the only other medication I use other than vitamins are additional eye drops for glaucoma which is why I have a card – for my glaucoma and migraines. I have 0 other problems other than osteoporosis – prescription medication for that did more harm than good and now use calcium & vitamin D.Big Pharma hates folks like me.

    2. kasey says:

      any words yet on when maybe texas or ohio will join up with the medical marijuana plans?

    3. joe oint says:

      it seems to me that legalizing marijuana would be a good thing so why is it so difficult to get it legal when there is so much documented evidence of its benifits?

    4. Amanda C Anonymous says:

      Its dificult cuz of the poilitiking. Big Pharma wants to run the MMJ show, the government is set on reaping all the benefits. So until all the details are hammered out on how the 1% can keep the money in the grimey little hands im sure we wont see it legal on a federal level. Texas legalize weed?????? Even MMJ??????????? Have you ever been to Texas????????????????????????????????????? If your caught with paraphernalia here its a fine up to $500 The feds will legalize it before we can roll it here lol

    5. The American Genesist says:

      “Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf [feds]? We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”

      We the Genesist people – have a legitimate grievance to act – and – our grievance is in accordance with federal law. We have legal standing. A violation has been committed. Our Constitutional right [First Amendment – Establishment Clause] has been violated – “by law.” The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 itself has been violated, and is deemed voidable on the grounds that Compelling Justification and Prior Competing Governmental Interests [law] denies Genesists our Faith, Sacrament, and the “free exercise thereof.” Free Exercise means: that portion of the First Amendment to the Constitution that “proscribes laws” prohibiting the free exercise of religion, and includes the application of that proscription under the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.

      Of course, and without question or margin of doubt, Genesists are in favor of total legalization for all. Medicinal use is absolute in its value and efficacy as a medicine – but – both or either, are inconsequential to religious use and the “Free exercise thereof.” – or – any exercise of religion, whether or not compelled by, or central to a system of religious belief, and any conduct protected as exercise of religion under the First Amendment of the Constitution.

      It’s crucial that government understand that – “It can yell until it asphyxiates itself, turns blue in the face holding its breath, or go to its room {go to your room!] and punch holes in the walls with its fists – but – they should get this straight, once and for all, government “CAN NOT” have our Faith and our Sacrament – and – “THAT’S THAT.” They can beat me unconscious or to death – but – they will never hear me utter the words they demand to hear – “I give.”

      Genesists, myself in particular, are not here to “play God and rule the world” – evil is doing an outstanding job at that. My purpose is only to minister my brethren’s Faith and Sacrament, as well as enlighten those who have an interest in the Genesist Faith.

    6. Chris in WI says:

      In response to #3 (joe oint):

      Short answer: peeplz iz ignant

      Long answer: Because facts and math don’t matter to some poeple. If it seems that the sun is going around the earth it doesn’t matter to them that we can demonstrate mathematically and observationally the earth is the one circling. -look at those who think the earth is a few thousand years old, yet we can see light from distant reaches of space that HAD to be traveling for billions of years to hit your eye.

      The problem, as I see it, is that everyone has a different set of “facts”. This is a bad concept (obviously because there can only be one set of true facts). There are people who post on this website who think cannabis is a gateway drug (there is no chemical in weed that makes you crave coke or heroin). There are people who post on this site who restate that 10% get addicted stat. This is inaccurate. You cannot develop a physical addiction to cannabis (you will not shake or convulse… you might be in a bad mood, but that is not the same thing -ask a heroin addict about addiction!). You CAN be psychologically addicted; but you can be to cheeseburgers too and nobody thinks you should outlaw them.

      Basically everyone seems to have their own set of “facts” and until we all get on the same sheet of music we are going to continue to be those “crazy potheads who just want to get high”.

      That’s why I stay away from that whole debate now. It’s a personal choice and I own my body and I should get to own my choices regarding what I put in my body. Period.

    7. Walter Anthony Swierczynski says:

      After 40+ years of Daily Cannabis use, Im more than delighted to see the stats for this God Given herb.

    8. Fat boy says:

      PA4MM the bill is in just waiting on the verdict. I pray that we will be the 17th state(412©)

    9. Bradson says:

      What about rates of schizophrenia in medical marijuana states? This fear has gotten a lot of press…

      [Russ responds: Schizophrenia rates worldwide have remained at about 1% of the population since those rates have been recorded. Early 60’s before pot became popular, late 60’s as it gained users, late 70’s when it peaked, late 80’s when it bottomed out, now with medical, doesn’t matter, schizophrenia rates remain the same.]