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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

California Has 1.1 Million Medical Marijuana Users, NORML Says

Posted By on Tue, May 31, 2011 at 4:00 PM

We pot more than we need politicians
  • 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


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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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.


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