Arizona Medical-Marijuana Users Consumed 10 Tons of Legal Cannabis Products in 2014
A new state report shows that slightly more than 10 tons of marijuana were smoked, eaten or otherwise consumed in 2014 by Arizona's 60,000 medical-marijuana patients.
New Times obtained the information from the Arizona Department of Health Services, which produced a similar report in 2013 of the transactions at authorized dispensaries.
See below for the state's breakdown on the latest numbers:
(We added commas to the following numbers, fyi, for reading convenience.)
Marijuana (oz.) 290,884.88
Marijuana Edible (oz.) 28,902.87
Marijuana other (oz.) 2,741.16
Total Marijuana Sold (oz.) 322,528.91
Total Marijuana Sold (grams) 9,143,543.3
Total Marijuana Sold (kilograms) 9,143.54
Total Marijuana Sold (metric ton) 9.1435433
We multiplied 9.1 by 1.1 to get a U.S. ton (2,000 pounds) figure of 10.1 tons.
That's a four-fold increase over the 2013 number of about 2.5 tons, while the number of patients has only gone up by about 50 percent in the same time frame. We think that means many patients switched from unauthorized sources of medicine to the state-certified dispensaries last year, as more of the stores opened.
A separate DHS report online shows there were 87 legal dispensaries open across Arizona as of December 29.
Playing around with these figures, we can see that each dispensary sold a mean average of only 3,713 ounces of cannabis products.
No official price-per-ounce is available. But taking a range of $350 to $450 an ounce, the average haul for the 87 dispensaries last year was $1.3 million to $1.7 million. That's just in cannabis sales -- some of the dispensaries make a few extra bucks by selling smoking paraphernalia, T-shirts, or other items.
The totals don't seem like much for a small business, which has plenty of expenses -- cultivation or purchase of products, employee salaries, rent, etc. -- to subtract from their take-in. Natural variation will occur, especially in a competitive market like the Phoenix metro area, which offers patients a choice of numerous dispensaries within easy driving distance from each other. Common sense dictates that some of these businesses are smoking, so to speak, while others struggle to survive.
Another fascinating math exercise would be to figure out how this relates to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee numbers we unearthed last month about the potential tax-revenue windfall from Colorado-style "recreational" marijuana stores. Several groups are now working on a draft for a 2016 ballot initiative in Arizona that would legalize the sale, use, and -- possibly -- cultivation of marijuana for all adults 21 and older.
JLBC fiscal analyst Jeremy Gunderson produced a two-page report that made several interesting assumptions that can be juxtaposed with the new state data on medicinal users.
Using state surveys, Gunderson estimates there are 543,400 marijuana users in Arizona. He predicts legal marijuana would, at least at first, take only one-third of the overall marijuana market. After subtracting medical users, he figures about 950,000 ounces of legal marijuana would have been sold in the state in 2016, had a legalization bill been passed into law last year, raising about $48 million in tax revenue for Arizona.
But a quick glance shows he subtracted only 95,000 ounces for medical users, when actual use by medical users in 2014 was about 323,000 ounces. That would have an effect on the tax situation, for sure.
On the other hand, Gunderson breaks down his numbers into heavy, moderate and light users, based on estimates from the state of Washington. That data showed the "high usage" crowd consumes about 21 ounces of marijuana yearly, while the low-end users consume about 3.9 ounces yearly.
Arizona has roughly 60,000 medical users, we estimate by the latest data available. In 2014, they used an average of 5.3 ounces each, closer to that of low-usage recreational consumers.
And that's where we're stopping our calculations due to math anxiety. Have at it, if you like.
Got a tip? Send it to: Ray Stern.
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