How many medical marijuana patients are there?

Drug Policy Question of the Week – 2-26-11

As answered by Mary Jane Borden, Editor of Drug War Facts for the Drug Truth Network on 2-26-11.

Question of the Week: How many medical marijuana patients are there?

The Congressional Research Service reported that,

“A July 2005 CRS telephone survey of the state [medical marijuana] programs revealed a total of 14,758 registered medical marijuana users in eight states.”

The report also noted,

“More recently, an estimate published by Newsweek early in 2010 found a total of 369,634 users in the 13 states with established programs.”

Medical cannabis programs are changing quickly. Applying the National Survey on Drug Use and Health or the Monitoring the Future survey to U.S. Census Bureau data can extrapolate national estimates.

Using the legal state of Colorado as a basis, the Census Bureau calculated Colorado’s 2009 population age 18+ at 3.8 million. The 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health claims that 6.8% of Coloradans are current cannabis consumers. Applying that percentage to the population results in an estimated 260,000 “current users” in Colorado.

According to the Colorado Medical Marijuana Registry, the

“total number of patients who currently possess valid Registry ID cards [was] 95,477”

as of 6/30/2010. Thus, these registered patients represented about 36% of the state’s “current” marijuana users.

Assuming 36% to be a standard patient percentage and applying it to the estimated 16.7 million current marijuana users nationwide results in about 5 million U.S. patients.

This count is supported by the Monitoring the Future survey, which apportions daily marijuana use percentages by age. Daily cannabis consumption implies medical use. Matching survey percentages to the middle series 2010 Census population computes an approximate total of 5 million patients between the ages of 18 and 55.

These facts and others like them can be found in the Medical Marijuana Chapter of Drug War Facts at

Questions concerning these or other facts concerning drug policy can be e-mailed to