America's One Million Legalized Marijuana Users

At Least 1 – 1.5 Million Americans are Legal Medical Marijuana Patients
Market for these patients in sixteen states and D.C. estimated at between $2 – $6 billion annually
MAY 31, 2011 – We don’t know his or her name, but somewhere in one of sixteen states and the District of Columbia is America’s 1,000,000th legal medical marijuana patient. We estimate the United States reached the million-patients mark sometime between the beginning of the year to when Arizona began issuing patient registry identification cards online in April 2011.

Between one to one-and-a-half million people are legally authorized by their state to use marijuana in the United States, according to data compiled by NORML from state medical marijuana registries and patient estimates.  Assuming usage of one-half to one gram of cannabis medicine per day per patient and an average retail price of $320 per ouncethese legal consumers represent a $2.3 to $6.2 billion dollar market annually.
Based on state medical marijuana laws, the amounts of cannabis these legal marijuana users are entitled to possess means there is between 566 – 803 thousand pounds of legal usable cannabis allowed under state law in America.  These patients are allowed to cultivate between 17 – 24 million legal cannabis plants.  There may possibly be more, as California and New Mexico “limits” may be exceeded with doctor’s permission and some California counties explicitly allow greater amounts, so there may be as much as 1 million pounds of state-legal cannabis allowed under state law in America.

Active Medical Marijuana State (Total population of sixteen medical marijuana states + D.C. = over 90 million.  D.C., Delaware, and New Jersey programs are not yet active.) # Legal Medical Marijuana Patients (% of state population)
California (1996) – No central state registry, 2% – 3% of overall population estimate by Dale Gieringer at California NORML by comparing rates in Colorado & Montana. ~750,000 (2.00%)
~1,125,000 (3.00%)
Washington (1998) – No registry, 1% – 1.5% of overall population estimate by Russ Belville at NORML by comparing rates in Oregon & Colorado. ~67,000 (1.00%)
~100,000 (1.50%)
Oregon (1998) – Centralized state registry data published online. 39,774 (1.04%)
Alaska (1998) – No data online, verified by author’s call to Alaska Bureau of Vital Statistics. 380 (0.05%)
Maine (1999) – Centralized state registry data published online. 796 (0.06%)
Nevada (2000) – 2008 figures from, awaiting return call from state for official number. 860 (0.03%)
Hawaii (2000) – Estimate from Pam Lichty of Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii; program is run by law enforcement who are reluctant to release data. ~8,000 (0.59%)
Colorado (2000) – Centralized state registry data published online. 123,890 (2.46%)
Vermont (2004) – No data online, verified by author’s call to Vermont Criminal Information Center. 349 (0.06%)
Montana (2004) – Centralized state registry data published online. 30,609 (3.09%)
Rhode Island (2006) – Centralized state registry data published online. 3,069 (0.29%)
New Mexico (2007) – Centralized state registry data published online. 3,615 (0.18%)
Michigan (2008) – Centralized state registry data published online. 75,521 (0.76%)
Arizona (2010) – Centralized state registry data published online. 3,696 (0.06%)
~1,500,000 (1.67%)

Yet after fifteen years, one million patients, and a million pounds of legal marijuana, few if any of the dire predictions by opponents of medical marijuana have come to fruition.  Medical marijuana states like Oregon are experiencing their lowest-ever rates of workplace fatalities, injuries, and accidents.  States like Colorado are experiencing their lowest rates in three decades of fatal crashes per million miles driven.  In medical marijuana states for which we have data (through Michigan in 2008), use by minor teenagers is down in all but Maine and down by at least 10% in states with the greatest proportion of their population using medical cannabis.

Medical Marijuana State Age 12-17 Monthly Use When Passed Age 12-17 Monthly Use in 2008 Highway Fatalities When Passed Highway Fatalities in 2009 Workplace Injuries / Illness When Passed Workplace Injuries / Illness in 2009
California (1996) 7.70% 6.86% 3,989 3,081 7.1% 4.2%
Washington (1996) 9.90% 7.17% 662 492 9.2% 5.3%
Oregon (1998) 9.60% 8.22% 538 377 6.8% 4.5%
Alaska (1998) 10.40% 8.03% 70 64 7.4% 4.6%
Maine (1999) 7.20% 9.06% 181 159 8.8% 5.6%
Nevada (2000) 9.54% 7.52% 323 243 7.2% 4.4%
Hawaii (2000) 8.72% 7.07% 132 109 6.2% 4.2%
Colorado (2000) 10.80% 9.10% 681 465 n/a n/a
Vermont (2004) 11.11% 10.86% 98 74 5.6% 5.1%
Montana (2004) 10.00% 8.60% 229 221 7.2% 5.3%
Rhode Island (2006) 9.74% 9.46% 81 83 5.2% n/a
New Mexico (2007) 8.73% 8.19% 413 361 5.0% 4.8%
Michigan (2008) n/a 7.36% 980 871 4.5% 4.2%

Fourteen of the seventeen medical marijuana jurisdictions have mandatory registries while two (California and Colorado) offer optional registries and one (Washington) has no registry system.  Estimating California’s patient numbers is hampered by its registry system being on a county-by-county basis.  California NORML’s Dale Gieringer estimates between 2% – 3% of the state’s population are holding medical marijuana recommendations – meaning possibly over one million medical marijuana patients in California alone.

California’s patient population can be estimated from data from other medical marijuana states where patients are required to register, shown in the table below. The top two of these are Colorado and Montana, which, like California, have a well developed network of cannabis clinics and dispensaries, and which report usage rates of 2.5% and 3.0%, respectively. Other states, where medical marijuana is less developed, report lower rates of 1% and less. However, California is likely to be on the high side because it has the oldest and most liberal law in the nation. Significantly, California is the only state that permits marijuana to be used for any condition for which it provides relief – in particular, psychiatric disorders, such as PTSD, bipolar disorder, ADD, anxiety and depression, which account for some 20%-25% of the total patient population. Adjusting for this, usage in California could be as much as 25% to 33% higher than in Colorado and Montana, which would put it well over 3% of the population (1,125,000).
A 2%+ patient population estimate is supported by data from the Oakland Patient ID Center, which has been issuing patient identification cards to its members since 1996. The OPIDC serves patients from all over the state, but especially the greater Oakland-East Bay area of Northern California, where its cards are honored by law enforcement. As of 2010, the OPIDC had issued ID’s to 19,805 members from five East Bay cities (Oakland, Berkeley, Alameda, Hayward and Richmond), amounting to 2.4% of the local population.Because the cards were issued over a period of 14 years, they include numerous patients who have lapsed, moved, or deceased. On the other hand, they do not include many other local patients who have current recommendations but never registered with the OPIDC.

We have made a similar estimate for Washington State’s patients, who are the only ones in the nation with no registry system in place (Gov. Gregoire recently signed a bill that initiates a voluntary registry).  With a law very similar to Oregon’s concerning qualifying conditions, applying Oregon’s 1.04% patient population figure gives us about 69,000 patients in Washington. However, Washington State’s larger urban centers (Seattle and Spokane), combined with a more liberal law than Oregon’s regarding who can sign recommendations (osteopaths, naturopaths, and nurse practitioners can recommend in Washington) and the lack of a state registry’s burden to patient compliance with the program suggests a higher estimate of 1.5% – 2% may be appropriate.  Numbers like Colorado’s 2.5% and Montana’s 3% are improbable as Washington lacks the greater patient access to dispensaries seen in those states.
Delaware, New Jersey, and D.C.’s programs are not operational yet, so they are not shown in our data table.  Most of the other state’s programs produce reports of patient registry numbers.  With Arizona signing up over 3,600 patients since mid-April, when it’s online-only registration went into effect, Arizona is on track to register over 30,000 patients this year.
Quick Facts about Medical Marijuana States:

  • The 1.1 – 1.5 million estimated and registered medical marijuana patients in America are legally entitled to cultivate 17 – 24 million cannabis plants and possess 283 –  402 tons of harvested buds.
  • The seventeen jurisdictions with medical marijuana encompass over 90 million Americans and 162 votes in the 2012 Electoral College.
  • Patients make up over 3% of the population of Montana, almost 2.5% of Colorado, over 2% of California. and over 1% of Oregon, and Washington.
  • After Michigan at 0.76% of population, every other medical marijuana state has less than 3 in 1,000 (0.3%) patients in its population.
  • California, Colorado, Washington, Michigan, Oregon, and Montana comprise over 98% of the legal medical marijuana patients in America.
  • More than 3 out of four (77% – 83%) of all medical marijuana patients live on the West Coast.
  • Rhode Island and Vermont, two states where over 10% of the adult population uses marijuana monthly, have patient populations of 0.29% and 0.05%, respectively.
  • Monthly teen use of marijuana is down in every medical marijuana state except Maine.
  • Annual highway fatalities are down in every medical marijuana state except Rhode Island.
  • Incidents of workplace injuries and illnesses are down in every medical marijuana state.

129 thoughts

  1. Anyone who agrees that we should continue to arrest people, like jailing a non-violent offender for five years, in a medium security prison with mostly violent offenders, all for selling a seed the bible deemed was to be used, should *seriously* and carefully study the definition of ‘arbitrary’. Otherwise, there may be no hope for this society any time soon.

  2. Fact: 1 – 1.5 Million Legal Marijuana Patients from USA, whose population is about 100 Million. (Seems like there should be more patients)
    My Prediction: 50 – 70 Million Marijuana Users / Patients
    ……User can equate to occasional to every day user…..

  3. Warning, the following paragraph contains a high dose of reality. Don’t read if you can’t handle the truth.
    How in the fucking world can we rationalize giving cancer patients a toxic, but important, chemo chemical treatment, but God forbid they consume THE safest substance, on a toxicity level, known to man??? Excuse me, but don’t you think I’m going to let some fucking gold-seal of approval be what I need to improve MY quality of life. Quit fucking with people’s live you fucking belligerent government with your belligerent policies! The truth will prevail!

  4. @50. – The #1 harmful effect I see of actual use is lung damage which can be mitigated(vaporizer/eating it/etc..). Next on the list is a small percentage of the population which is already predisposed to mental health issues may possibly(no conclusive studies on it yet as 99% of research isn’t allowed) cause or exacerbate mental problems. Next is the slight chance of mental addiction (but that can be said for Cheeseburgers as well…).
    Prohibition has far worse affects on society. Number one there is tearing apart of families and ruining lives. (Hint: Try to get a job with a federal offense on your record.) Second is government mistrust. I doubt one supporter of the MJ or MMJ movement trusts their government after 50 years of lies(at least where MJ is concerned). This erosion of trust will lead to a lack of patriotism by some and fuel conspiracy theories by others.
    There are many more examples of prohibition related problems, but most legalization problems as shown by this article are founded on pure fear and speculation. I’m sorry, but reefer madness has stopped and education is the only way to stop it(and the best way to reduce teen use as well as shown by the study and other anecdotal evidence).

  5. P.S. As write this I’m currently more addicted to caffeine than I am marijuana. I get headaches if I don’t get enough caffeine in a day, but never once have I craved MJ and frequently stop by choice for long periods for known upcoming drug tests.
    I’ve taken about a dozen in my adult life and never failed one. Luckily I don’t have much fat in my system.
    Differences in fat content and metabolism make DUID laws hard to apply even handed. I could smoke a bowl and my wife could(she significantly overweight). In one week I would pass a drug test, but it would take her three weeks and they have a higher cut-off than the DUID law proposed in Colorado. You shouldn’t be smoking and driving(even cigarettes as they are a distraction), but a solution has to be reasonable and even handed in application.

  6. The human lung [any lung] is not equipped to contain smoke [carbon]. Tobacco prohibs are quite correct on this point – ask “any” fireman or doctor.

  7. @57. That is exactly why I posted what I did. Smoking is BAD for you (no matter the source), but a vaporizer doesn’t released carbon(or only in very low levels) and eating is the safest way to go, but for those needed more immediate relief using it medically it just not practical to be in pain waiting for it to “kick in”.

  8. Honestly though, caffeine is more addictive(physically and mentally) and more toxic than THC. The LD50 for caffeine is between 150-200 mg/kg(or ~45 NoDoz pills(9g caffeine) available over the counter, but hospitalization can be required in as little as 2g total intake) in humans and 192 mg/kg in rats, but for THC 666 mg/kg in rats which means it’s ~3x more toxic in rats given orally(pill form).
    The absolute most toxic way to administer it is intravenously (29 mg/kg in rats) or in others words directly injected ~1.3g pure THC straight into your veins.
    It only 1/1000th of the lethal dose to be effective though, but alcohol only has a 10:1 effectiveness (~10x what will get you drunk can kill you).
    100x safer than alcohol(available for any adult with no limit on purchase amount) based on toxicity and 3x less toxic than caffeine (available even to kids)… makes one think…
    One more thing Asprin = about the same LD50 as THC… yes, pill form THC is literally as safe as aspirin.
    And nicotine? 50 mg/kg or about 10-15x more toxic than THC taken orally…(but that doesn’t include long term effects like stomach cancer which THC has never been linked to).
    I posted this because I know how much you Genesists love facts. 😀
    Note: All this information is easily available on Wikipedia and MJ has approx 3%-20% THC by weight(or if you eat 145.85G of 20% MJ(about 5-6 ounces) or about 1.5lbs of schwag and your body takes all the THC in(it can’t and won’t) you can suffer toxicity problems)… Draw your own conclusions.
    Realistically, you would have to eat more herb than you stomach can hold. So fill your stomach wait for it to digest and fill it again(if you have passed out first which you will before this point) and you might end up in the hospital… In other words, you can’t eat enough herb to kill you(physically impossible). You can’t inhale enough to kill you(vaporizer)and you can smoke enough either(bong/joint, etc..). There are three ways to die from it though, direct injection into your blood, suffocation due to smoke inhalation, and getting into an accident from being irresponsible.
    Conclusion: THC is safer than Alcohol, Nicotine, and Caffeine by multiple times and about as toxic as Aspirin in pure form.

  9. I am a medical Marijuana Patient, but only till June 20th because under our new law which is a back door repeal and don’t let them lie to you I and many other patients will loose their card. I have a very rare bone disease that only affects one in a 100,000 people. Dr. in my town Missoula knew nothing about my disease and I believe don’t care to. There is lots of chronic pain. My kidneys can be affected by anything that I put in my body. I was using pain medication like society wants me to from the pharmacist. I let my pills run down to the last pill and had a trip planned. Thought I could just call my pharmacist and have them fax a refill request to my Dr. and it would be ready when I got back to town. Well I got home early evening and the night before I had a horrible time sleeping to a message from the pharmacy that they couldn’t refill for me because my Dr. wants to see me. By the time I got in to see him the next day I was having the most horrible experience of my life. that was on only 6 non narcodic. I told my Dr. that I didn’t want any more pain pills but he needed to give me something to get through it, so he did. I never want to go through that again. The next day I saw my bone Dr. a very reputable ones in town. When I told her about my experience she said there is always Medical Marijuana. I told her I already did but with the new law the only Dr. that can give it to me is the Dr. that have diagnosed me with chronic pain and I have to show proof that I have been treated for chronic pain. That would be you or my internist not giving names because of privacy that I am not allowed to have under the new State Law. My medical Information would be available to any Law enforcement agencies out there and who ever else. And I will have to have both of them recommending it. She said that wasn’t possible and not because she just doesn’t want to but because she can’t. I’m guessing because she accepts Federal money and she is attached to our Hospitals here and I don’t know what rules or regulations they have laid out. So even though I can show all the proof of being treated for chronic pain I can not get my medical Marijuana. I am shocked at the ignorance of so much of the people. And can’t see past there mistakes they have made. Now I am being punished and forced to obtain my medication illegally. And I will not be able to get it in liquid form which I prefer.

  10. There is a massive news story today…
    The Global Commission on Drug Policy issued a report that says the war on drugs has failed and cannot ever be won, and they called for the legalization of marijuana and decriminalization of hard drug addicts!
    The White House drug tzar rejected the report out of hand.
    This is fascinating because 40 years ago, the Shafer Commission came to almost the exact same conclusion, and President Nixon had almost the exact same reaponse.
    In fact, that report pushed Nixon over the edge because he soon after created the DEA and declared a War on Drugs!
    Obama is the new Nixon.
    “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.” Mark Twain

  11. 60. Charles
    Thank you – Genesists love the truth – no matter who receives it – and – we like the bad news first. Cannabis is the most therapeutically safe substance known to man. What facts we demand are evidence derived from scientific research, from all sources of science, and brought to Scientific Conclusion. We demand that this evidence/facts be presented to a candid audience, the American people. THE TRUTH IS IN THE SCIENCE.

  12. greetings i the name of the most HIGH…JAH! WTF 1.5 grams a day. that nothing, when George in iowa who has a federal goverment prescription for medical marijuana, has to smoke 10grams a day. doctor orders… mi rastafar-i, roll at lest 5grams in mi spliff… and when mi back in the mother land(jamaica), i can smoke 4oz or more a day no problem mon. you that have been to jamaica know that true. you people in america have not begun to somke the blessed herb… and get the true meaning… weed of wisdom… ya mon, PEACE & LOVE

  13. Please please please just legalize it. I don’t want to be breaking the law, but I won’t give up my medicine. I’m so tired of living below the law, which exists for no good reason. It’s safe, it’s healthy, it’s beneficial. Enough is enough.

  14. Mike Says:
    May 31st, 2011 at 2:21 pm
    “The correlation between legal medical marijuana and the decreases displayed are incredibly weak. The decreases are present in the other states as well, there is no evidence showing that these declines are in any way related to the legalization of medical marijuana.”
    That is true, however, it does show that medical marijuana legalization has clearly not led to the massive increases in these statistics that the prohibitionists have long been predicting would happen with legalization.
    To the best of my knowledge there has never been a single death directly attributed to marijuana use (if you don’t count being shot to death by cops during the serving of a search warrent for it) in all of recorded history. Yet, thousands of people die each year from aspirin. Marijuana is clearly much safer than aspirin, and has no practical LDL50 rating.

  15. “All I can say is – there’s nothing as powerful as an idea that’s time has come – and – then make it reality.”
    It’s not what we have done [call it history] – it’s what we can do. One thing we can do – every single one of us – right this very minute – is best said like this:
    “You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of ocean are dirty, the ocean does become dirty.” Gandhi
    Is it really “good intentions” government has for its fellow Americans. The road to hell is paved with “good intentions.” What we have to do is “be indifferent to” any past, present, or future propaganda [which violates the Data Quality Act] prohibitionists disseminate. “Government can’t hurt us – if we don’t let them.” The right government will make you feel like a “good American.” Is our microphone powerful enough to reach real Americans that will preserve, protect, and defend our country, Constitution, Faith, and American way of life? This remains to be seen – but – government can’t govern without us – if they have nothing to govern – no mindless puppets they seek to create.

  16. The statistics are hardly surprising in my estimation and probably most other regular users of cannabis but I’m happy to see the real deal. There is little left to grasp for the prohibitionists but their power and influence (the unholy alliance of government, big business & media conglomerates) and the relative gullibility of the populous at large will likely keep this charade going on the flimsiest of pretenses.

  17. ……..but, but, but didn’t they tell us that passing Proposition 19 would make for a dangerous workplace and that accidents would increase . Yep, sure is a dangerous drug .

  18. where are you on this day, can you hear the children crying, they cry for their mothers and fathers

  19. Russ,
    Can you provide the citations for your statements re: teen marijuana use, traffic accidents and workplace injuries being down in most mmj states. Before I start using those statements in other posts elsewhere, I’d like to know more about them. Thanks kindly. You can send the info to .

  20. One thing to note is that “decrim” may not be the cause, but it does show definitively that the explosion of use predicted just isn’t happening.

  21. Thanks Charles. Since I am dial-up internet-challenged out here in my Tennessee deep hollow home, links sometimes do not work.
    The information presented is useful. However, what would be particularly useful would be to compare the positive trends in mmj states with either the national trends for these same indicators or (even better) a grouped comparison of trends in mmj states vs. non-mmj states for these same three indicators. If you can show that mmj states have done better (or at least no worse) in reducing these indicators, that would be most persuasive. Otherwise, skeptics might say that these indicators may be declining everywhere so what you’ve shown for mmj states doesn’t prove anything. It would be good to know the answers to that challenge beforehand.
    BTW, if people are drinking and driving less in mmj states (vis a vis substitution), that would help explain the declines in traffic fatalities. I have always said that there are clear differences between drunk and stoned drivers. Drunk drivers run through stop signs at high speeds, while stoned drivers sit patiently at the sign, waiting for it to say “Go”. The first one will kill you, the second might just annoy you (or, more likely, make you laugh.)

  22. The one thing it does show for sure is the explosion of use hasn’t happened and contrary to predictions the world hasn’t ended…

  23. This blog turns out to be one of the most discussed issues in the internet today. In fact, there are many people who signed for the legalization of marijuana which caused a big debate between the government and the non-supportive.

  24. the one thing i dont understand about this country.. is that people constantly get shit faced with alcohol…..but if you are a pothead..god forbidd..ur going to hell… if people are gonna say this plant is sooooo horrrible for you and keep it illegal..the alcohol should go away too… (LEGALIZE) everything in life is meant to be balanced.. if you are able to do this with substances..that alter the state of mind there is no harm done.. WEED is not addictive at all…and at one point believed in all of that bullshit propaganda against weed..but the first time i got high i felt like i was betreyed by all the lies of how bad this herb was suppose to be for you..when clearly it has medical properties…

  25. Here in Brazil marijuana was ‘discriminated’ ie, the user does not go to prison to jail for smoking, but if the police catch you with any amount of marijuana you are arrested and placed in the police car, taken to the district police to register bletim an occurrence and then the user is forwarded to a judge, who judges the user to pay a fine small value and service to the community.
    But the millions of users in Brazil are required to purchase marijuana illegally feeding the chain of crime. Politicians in Brazil begin to discuss the possibility of the user plant some marijuana plants in his home.
    I carry the VHC1 and started using marijuana to eight years to relieve side effects of chemotherapy that I did – and I still liked using every day.

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