Massachusetts made headlines last week with their record-breaking spike in folks obtaining medical cannabis cards. The spike directly followed Governor Charlie Baker’s decision to close recreational cannabis stores, considering them nonessential.
According to Boston Globe, from March 23 to April 21, new medical patient numbers reached a staggering 7,235 according to data provided by the Cannabis Control Commission in Massachusetts. This is the largest number of people the state has seen register within a single month, and a 245 percent increase over the 2,097 new patients registered in February and earlier March.
“The increase doesn’t surprise me—we’ve always believed that more than a majority of [recreational] customers are using cannabis for medical needs such as anxiety, pain relief, and sleep disorders,” said David Torrisi, the president of the Commonwealth Dispensary Association, according to Boston Globe. “There’s a direct relation to the recreational shutdown.”
This trend has been recognized in the state for some time now. Steven Hoffman, the chairman of the CCC, stated earlier this month that he wasn’t surprised by this, echoing the same sentiments.
“There’s always been a belief that people were—some people and I don’t know the percentages—but some people were using the adult-use market to satisfy their medical needs,” he said. “And I think since the adult-use market is temporarily shut down, I think those people are applying for medical licenses.”
In addition to the spike in the number of new patients, there has also been an increase in the number of patients submitting annual renewals for their med cards. The number reached 4,700 from March 23 to April 21, another dramatic increase.
Still, this spike doesn’t mean that the market in Massachusetts is safe from harm. Torrisi also pointed out that those who sell both medical and recreational cannabis usually make 80 to 85 percent of their revenue from recreational sales. Since those are totally on hold, even this massive increase is “a drop in the bucket” when it comes to the money they are used to bringing in. And since cannabis companies are as of yet unable to get federal help, the state is definitely feeling the strain.
If nothing else, the spike is just more evidence that patients want cannabis to be considered essential in order to maintain access to the plant no matter what.