Medical Marijuana Programs Take a Hit in States with Legal Recreational Market

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

In a new analysis of data from states with both medical and recreational marijuana programs, Marijuana Business Daily found that legalizing adult-use cannabis had a big impact on the number of registered MMJ patients.

Currently, the only states that have legalized both medical and recreational cannabis are Colorado, Massachusetts, Nevada, and Oregon. Each state’s medical marijuana program saw a decrease in registered patients once the adult-use market launched.

However, the rate at which patients are registering isn’t the same in all states. Colorado and Nevada have seen decreases in patient counts but at a much lower rate than in Oregon. From July 2018 to July 2019, patient counts fell 1% in Colorado and actually increased by 2% in Nevada. In Oregon, patient counts have fell 65% from October 2015 to July 2019.

Marijuana Business Daily attributes the difference in patient registration to how much it costs to renew medical marijuana cards annually. In Nevada and Massachusetts, patients pay a $50 annual fee, while in Colorado, the fee is $25. In Oregon, patients pay $200 annually.

In Colorado, changes to medical cannabis rules that take effect in November could lead to an increase in the number of registered medical marijuana patients. Autism spectrum disorder was added to the list of qualifying medical conditions, and more medical professionals will be able to recommend cannabis. Doctors will be able to prescribe cannabis instead of opioids with short-term MMJ cards valid for 60 days. Plus, medical marijuana delivery will begin on Jan. 2, 2020.

Overall, cannabis sales in Colorado continue to break state records.  In August, customers bought $173 million worth of medical and recreational cannabis, a 23 percent increase over sales in 2018.

It’s still too soon to tell how patient counts will be impacted by the recreational market in Massachusetts, but their lower registration fee could put them on a similar trajectory as Nevada and Colorado.