Over 750,000 people in California (some two percent of the population) use medical marijuana in compliance with state law, according to estimates published by California NORML, the state affiliate of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
The figure indicates a substantial increase from previous estimates of the organization but is in line with registration rates in other comparable states that enjoy similar wide access to medical cannabis clinics and dispensaries.
In a press release, States California NORML said: “Because patients are not required to register in California, their exact number is uncertain. Under California’s medical marijuana law, … patients need only a physician’s recommendation to be legal. Just a tiny fraction of the state’s medical marijuana population is enlisted in the state’s voluntary ID card program, which issued just 12,659 cards in 2009-10. Therefore, California patient numbers must be estimated from other sources. Among the most salient are medical marijuana registries in Colorado and Montana, which report usage rates of 2.5% and 3.0%, respectively. Because California’s law is older and has more liberal inclusion criteria than other states, usage here is likely to be higher.”
It adds: “Despite this, there is no evidence that liberal access to medical marijuana has spurred overall marijuana use in California. According to U.S. SAMHSA data, the total number of users in the state, including non-medical ones, amounts to 6.7% of the population (2.5 million) within the past month, or 11.3% (4.1 million) within the past year. This places California only slightly above the national average in marijuana use (6.0% monthly and 10.4% yearly), and below several states with tougher marijuana laws. Use of marijuana by California school youth has declined since Prop. 215 passed, according to data from the Attorney General’s Survey of Student Drug Use in California. The increase in medical marijuana use therefore appears to reflect a tendency for existing users to ‘go medical,’ rather than the enlistment of new users.”
It is estimated by California NORML that the total retail value of medical marijuana consumed in California is “between $1.5 and $4.5 billion per year, assuming a market of 2% to 3% of the population, average use of 0.5 to 1 gram per day, and an average cost of $320 per ounce.”