Drug Law

Colorado Earning $7 Million Off Marijuana Dispensaries

| by NORML
By "Radical" Russ Belville

(Westword) Every Colorado dispensary and associated business had to apply for a state license by August 1 — which means we finally have a total number of Colorado pot shops willing navigate the state’s new rules and fees. The tally: 717 dispensaries, 271 marijuana-infused product manufacturers and 1,071 grow facilities — in total earning the state $7.34 million in fees.

Considering there’s roughly 105,000 medical marijuana patients in Colorado, that breaks down to about 150 patients for every dispensary in the state.

The numbers also shed light on the size of most Colorado dispensaries. All but 35 of the 717 dispensaries applied for a “Type 1″ medical marijuana center license, meaning they serve 300 or fewer patients. Only fifteen applied for a Type 2 license, meaning they work with 301 to 500 patients, and twenty applied for Type 3, reserved for behemoths with 501 or more customers.

I’m thrilled that Colorado is seeing revenue from cannabusiness.  Money talks and even if some lawmakers don’t like marijuana, they have to like the easy money the dispensaries bring.

What I find notable about the story, however, is the estimated number of Colorado patients.  The stats from the Colorado Medical Marijuana Registry were last updated at the end of November 2009.  They indicated then that there were 30,919 Colorado patients.  Has Colorado really added another 75,000 patients in the span of eight months?

It is not unprecedented to see this huge increase in patient rolls.  Montana saw patient registrations double from March to September of 2009, rising from a little over 2,000 to a little under 4,000.  Six months later, then number has risen to over 12,000.

The catalyst for these rapid increases in patient numbers?  Dispensaries.  The election of Barack Obama in late ‘08, followed by the Holder Promise of ‘09 to allocate federal law enforcement resources away from those obeying state medical marijuana laws, has led to explosive growth of dispensaries in Colorado, Montana, and California, plus an initiative for dispensaries in Oregon, as well as state-run dispensary operations finalized or in progress in Maine, Rhode Island, New Jersey, DC, and New Mexico.

It’s a simple application of the laws of supply and demand.  There is a huge demand for medical marijuana, but in most states there is far too inadequate a supply.  Who wants to go to the trouble of collecting medical records (in every medmj state but California) that verify a specific condition, then spending money to see a medical marijuana clinic doctor, then spending more money to register with the state, if the result of all that hard work and money is to continue buying the same street weed you’re already getting?

Montana has about a million people, so 12,000 patients represents 1.2% of the population. Colorado has about 5 million, so about 2.1% of their population are cardholders.  If these numbers hold true for Oregon (pop. 3.9 million) and that state passes its dispensary measure, the number of registered patients would increase from the current 36,000 to between 46,800 to 81,900 within a year.