Young men, statistically speaking, are a healthy bunch.
Which has state health officials wondering: Why are so many of them signing up for medical marijuana?
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, which oversees the state’s medical marijuana registry, reported Thursday that it has been flooded with new applications in the last year — a growing number of them from young men diagnosed with severe pain.
“This dramatic increase in an age group that is not expected to suffer from a chronic debilitating condition is concerning,” Colorado’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Ned Calonge said in a news release.
Brian Vicente, a medical marijuana advocate who has fought previous efforts to limit the marijuana law, said it shouldn’t be. “Pain and illness strike people of all ages, and ultimately I don’t think the state should question or undermine a doctor-patient relationship.”
Applications for the registry, which require a physician’s authorization to be eligible, increased from 3,302 in July 2008 to 8,918 this year. Nearly half of those new applications, 4,282, came April through June.
So far this year nearly 1,800 of the applications were for men under 30, the majority of which were diagnosed with severe pain, the state said. Applications among this group, which is about 22 percent of the total, are also fast-growing. They went from about 70 a month in 2008 to 264 in May and 364 last month.
The updated numbers were released less than two weeks after the Colorado Board of Health voted down proposed restrictions to Colorado’s program. Calonge was among those pushing for the restrictions amid concerns that the registry is being used inappropriately.
According to Thursday’s news release, that effort might not be over. Calonge said the health department is “evaluating strategies” to deal with potential abuse. Specifically, it is eyeing physicians who diagnose severe and chronic pain to see if they’re following acceptable medical standards.
Voters legalized marijuana in 2000 with a constitutional amendment, and Vicente warned that any new effort to limit the law would only reignite the fight.
“I think the vast majority of these cases are legitimate, and I think the state should be happy that people are accessing this program and are getting relief from it.”
The state health department also corrected a previously mistated figure: The average age of registrants is 41, not 24.
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