A new report shows that Nevada’s 16-year old medical marijuana program saw its number of registered patients grow by more than 75% over the past year.
Nearly 11,000 new patients registered for Nevada’s medical marijuana program in 2016, Marijuana Business Daily reports. According to data provided by Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health (DPBH), the state’s medical marijuana registry was at 25,358 at the end of December, up from 14,482 in January.
The latest DPBH report found that over 21,000 of those patients had been approved for medicinal cannabis for severe pain. Nearly 3,500 have qualified for medical marijuana due to muscle spasms. The age group with the largest number of registered patients (5,542) was found to be between 55 to 64 years and a huge majority of patients (84 percent) are in Clark County.
Nevada was one of the first U.S. states to legalize medical marijuana. In 2000 voters approved Ballot Question 9, which allows patients with written documentation from a doctor to possess up to 2 1/2 ounce of usable marijuana. The law allows cannabis to be recommended for nine conditions and symptoms, including severe pain, muscle spasms, AIDS, cachexia, cancer, glaucoma, post-traumatic stress disorder, seizures, and severe nausea.
Despite the longevity of Nevada’s medicinal cannabis program, the state’s market falls short of expectations, Marijuana Business Daily notes. Less than 1 percent of the state’s population is enrolled in the program, and as a result, the dispensaries that are currently open and operating have struggled. The number of Nevada dispensaries grew from 12 to 50 in 2016 and as of right now, there are simply not enough customers to keep those dispensaries in business.
“There’s an oversupply of dispensaries as a ratio to patients, way too many,” Larry Doyle, co-owner of a dispensary in Las Vegas, told Marijuana Business Daily. “Dispensaries are struggling to stay open, particularly those that opened in the last six months.”
The program has made a handful of changes to help encourage its growth. It implemented an online application process for medical marijuana cards and now issues cards to patients prior to completing a background check. The adjustments have helped expedite the approval process.
Doyle told Marijuana Business Daily that he believes the program’s growth has been hindered because interested patients still face relatively high costs to participate. Every year, patients are required to reapply ($25 fee), pay for a new card ($50 fee), and obtain a new written certification from a doctor ($100 to $200 fee).
Nevada voters legalized recreational marijuana last November, and dispensaries are hoping they’ll find more relief once the law is implemented in 2018. Dispensaries that are serving the medical marijuana market will get priority in applying for a license to sell recreational marijuana.
“The dispensaries are all pinning their hopes on going from 25,000 customers to half a million,” Doyle said.
Nevada’s legal cannabis sales are expected to reach $629.5 million by 2020, according to a recent report from New Frontier and Arcview Market Research.