How many Utahns would use medical cannabis?
That was a question we were often posed during the campaign to legalize its use for sick patients in our state, but we couldn’t reliably answer it; we didn’t have the data to give a reliable answer.
After we and our coalition partners secured passage of the new law in late 2018, regulators commissioned a study to determine how many patients might enroll in the program. The statistical analysis looked at states that are adjacent to Utah and have active medical marijuana programs including Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado and Montana.
Based on the data from these states and their programs, the study concluded that within two years, Utah would see just over 15,000 active patients in the program.
This data later helped inform policy decisions about how many cannabis grow operations and dispensaries there should be to serve the expected size of patient population.
But the numbers were way off.
According to the latest data as of April 1, now that we’re just past the two year mark for the medical cannabis program, Utah has over 30,000 active patients — double the expected number.
Factoring in permits that have expired (whether because the need was temporary or cannabis proved ineffective for those patients), a total of 47,249 Utahns have enrolled in the program.
This data suggests that Utah will continue to exceed any estimates initially made — and that the number of grow operations and dispensaries should be increased to accommodate a larger patient population than first anticipated.
Despite a critical few who claim that Utah’s program is ineffective or broken, this high rate of enrollment indicates a high vote of confidence from the public. While reforms are still needed, the program overall is functioning as we intended when we set out to legalize medical cannabis in Utah. And we’re quite pleased to see so many patients being able to legally access the medicine they need without being criminalized for their conduct any longer.