Friday, December 2, 2011

Why are MMJ patient numbers declining?

Posted By on Fri, Dec 2, 2011 at 2:30 PM


We've recently been looking into the reason medical marijuana patient numbers in Colorado have fallen off a cliff in a two-month reporting period. Numbers as of Aug. 31 from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, which is responsible for administering the patient registry, show the number of people with red cards, statewide, is 121,476. Look at the reporting period ending Sept. 30, though, and it's down to 102,592.

El Paso County tells the same tale: 14,427 from August, 12,521 once September rolled around.

We reached out to CDPHE spokesman Mark Salley to get the department's reason for the decline. Problem is, he doesn't have one.

"We leave it to others to speculate on why the numbers might have declined, perhaps the recent legislation about bonafide patient-physician relationships that required examinations, record keeping and follow up might have had something to do with it…but who knows?" wrote Salley in an e-mail yesterday. "There could be any number of reasons. We don’t know why the number has declined."

So, maybe those reasons, and maybe it's what Westword's reporting based on a recent CDPHE statement that "14 percent of applications are being delayed in review for verification of Physician Certifications."

The delay is nothing new, but the percentage of patients is — and the numbers give us more insight into the number of overall applications. At the November 16 Board of Health meeting last year, CDPHE officials announced that roughly 3,200 patient applications were in limbo due in part because of issues with physicians' signatures. Today, CDPHE spokesman Mark Salley said that figure is up to about 4,000.

According to our (admittedly junior-high level) math skills, this means there are somewhere in the neighborhood of 28,500 total patient applications going through the system right now in one way or another. That would account for all of the roughly 26,000 patients who seemingly dropped out of the program in one month, and then some.

You can read the Indy's story on physician-signature issues here.

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