California Has 1.1 Million Medical Marijuana Users, NORML Says

Categories: Marijuana
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We pot more than we need politicians
California is the most populous state in the Union. It's where the nation's medical marijuana movement was birthed, and the Golden State is also where the rest of the country gets most of its illegal pot, judging by law enforcement statistics (lo siento, British Columbia and Mexico).

Based on these facts, it stands to reason that California would have a fair number of medical cannabis users. That notion, while logical, is unquantifiable (for reasons explained later), though that hasn't stopped California NORML from coming up with its own calculations.

Which are: as many as 1.1 million licensed, recommendation-carrying medical marijuana users in California, who in turn generate as much as $4.5 billion in legal, taxable activity, according to numbers NORML released Tuesday.

Can you say "too big to fail"?

NORML's numbers are guesswork, because, like skipping the big math test in school or Monday at work, all you need to become a medical marijuana patient is a doctor's note. And contrary to popular belief, there's no database with every patient's name, rank, and serial number somewhere in the Sacramento bureaucracy.

In Colorado and Montana, which do keep such tallies, 2.5 to 3 percent of the population are medical marijuana users. There are approximately 37 million people in California -- 2. 5 percent comprises 750,000 patients, and 3 percent of which is 1,110,000 million legal medical marijuana users.

That's up from 75,000 in 2004 and 300,000 in 2007. In other words, there are more licensed medical marijuana users in California than there are people of Native American tribal descent, according to Census data.

"The data shows that medical marijuana users are becoming an increasingly important constituency," said California NORML director Dale Gieringer in a statement released Monday along with his organization's most recent estimate. "It is time for the federal government to stop ignoring the facts and recognize their right to medicine."

Patients' spending power is likewise guesstimated: If every licensed pot user bought, say, one $40 eighth a week, that would be $160 a month per patient. Multiply that by 1.1 million, and you have a gigantic economic driver that's much bigger than NORML's numbers.

But how many people are medical pot patients, really? Nobody can say, because it's still an underground movement.

"It's like being openly gay in the 1970s," says David Goldman, a local activist who sits on the city's Medical Cannabis Task Force. "A lot of people are not out because they're afraid of being exposed. You can lose your job just for being a medical cannabis patient. So we honestly have no way of knowing" how many legal medical cannabis users exist in California.

Think of it this way: Many medical marijuana users spend way more than $160 a month -- think of grow lights, soil, water, and of PG&E bills. Then think of illegal, nonmedical marijuana users, growers, importers, and exporters all over the state. Then consider parts of the state that legally rely on marijuana to exist: Think of the annual harvest in Humboldt, Mendocino, Lake, and Trinity counties -- the trimming business, the ancillary food runs, gas for trucks, generators, and everything else.

California needs this shit, like it or not.

"It's probably a lot bigger than we think," Goldman says. And a much, much bigger part of California's economy than most politicians -- such as the ones with legislation in the Assembly that would restrict one of the state's lone growth industries -- would ever want to admit.

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I was looking for statistics on pot use in California since DUI deaths have reached a new low in the state. Ever since '05 it has been dropping. Naturally the CHP does not credit medical marijuana, but maybe they should. I think it should at least be checked out.

It would really be a tragedy if they close a bunch of pot shops to "keep us safe" and as a result more people die in traffic accidents. We need to keep track of that, because the police won't be honest about it at all. 

But for them to act in ways that kill people, I really have a problem with that. 


"The illegality of cannabis is outrageous, an impediment to full utilization of a drug which helps produce the serenity and insight, sensitivity and fellowship so desperately needed in this increasingly mad and dangerous world." -  Carl Sagan quote on Marijuana

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