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Study Finds That Medical Marijuana Patient Registration Has Grown More Than 600% Since 2016

Emily Mullins

by Emily Mullins

April 11, 2024 01:21 pm ET Estimated Read Time: 3 Minutes
Fact checked by Kymberly Drapcho
Study Finds That Medical Marijuana Patient Registration Has Grown More Than 600% Since 2016

Medical cannabis is more popular than ever before, with 38 states having legalized some form of it for various health conditions. A new federally-funded study has confirmed this, reporting that medical marijuana enrollment is skyrocketing throughout the United States.

Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and the University of Michigan found that there were more than 4.1 million patients in 2022, a sharp increase from the 3.1 million registered in 2020 and an even more dramatic rise from the 678,000 registered in 2016. It’s important to note, however, that California was excluded from these numbers, so the actual total is even higher.

This data aligns with Americans’ rising acceptance of cannabis. Now, more than 90% of citizens believe that the substance should be legal for medicinal and recreational use, something that would have seemed astonishing even a mere decade ago. Those conducting the study attribute this to “increasing cultural acceptance of cannabis, recognition of the harm of the ‘war on drugs’ (for example, mass incarceration and related consequences, such as family separation, trauma, and economic loss), and interest in the potential therapeutic properties of cannabis.”

The analysis was prompted by the ongoing discussions regarding cannabis rescheduling, which could happen as soon as this year.

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Researchers wrote in their report: “Given this potential federal policy shift, which would acknowledge therapeutic potential of cannabis and reduce research barriers, understanding the current national landscape of medical cannabis use and authorization patterns is essential to help inform future public health efforts related to cannabis.”

While there have been some drops in medical patient registration in states with adult-use (recreational) programs, pandemic-era programs also directly attributed to part of the increase in patient registration. Policies like telemedicine, curbside pickup, and cannabis delivery made marijuana products more accessible and affordable to countless Americans.

Although recreational cannabis legalization is spreading, there are still many benefits to getting a medical card even in adult-use states. Many patients continue to register due to lowered taxes, increased legal protections, higher purchase limits, and more.

The study also analyzed peoples’ reasons for registering. The most popular qualifying conditions continue to be chronic pain and PTSD, some of which may be related to the pandemic. The number of qualifying conditions is growing every year as cannabis continues to demonstrate benefits for more physical and mental illnesses.

To conclude their study, researchers stated: “These findings highlight the need for better surveillance methods to adequately understand the outcomes of medical cannabis use and thoughtful strategies and public health efforts to reduce harms from increased cannabis availability.”

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