The Green Wave: Medical Marijuana Patient Enrollment Grew 610% Since 2016

A new federal study has fired up the cannabis industry, just in time for the impending 4/20 holiday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and the University of Michigan recently issued a report about a staggering surge in enrollment in state-sanctioned medical marijuana programs across the nation.

The report was published last week by the journal Annals of Internal Medicine. Between 2016 and 2020, the number of patients enrolled in medical marijuana programs in the U.S. grew “dramatically,” the report says, rising from about 678,000 in 2016 to more than 3 million in 2020.

“This analysis indicates a 610% increase in patient number in the United States from 2016 to 2022,” the report states.

The report explains that the exponential increase comes amid “increasing cultural acceptance of cannabis, recognition of the harm of the War on Drugs…and interest in the potential therapeutic properties of cannabis.”

But there’s a twist. In states where recreational weed got the green light, patient registrations have fallen. (Looks like some folks are trading their prescription pads for party hats.)

To produce the study, the researchers sifted through data from 38 different states and the District of Columbia where medical marijuana is legal.

Turns out, the pandemic had a hand in boosting those numbers. With medical marijuana deemed by many states as “essential” during COVID lock-downs, access got as easy as ordering pizza on a Friday night.

Research firm New Frontier Data released a report in March that asserts U.S. cannabis sales could total $71 billion in 2030, even without federal legalization (see chart).

The research team behind the report in the Annals of Internal Medicine said it decided to conduct their analysis in light of the possible federal rescheduling of marijuana to Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act.

“Given this potential federal policy shift, which would acknowledge therapeutic potential of cannabis and reduce research barriers,” the study team wrote, “understanding the current national landscape of medical cannabis use and authorization patterns is essential to help inform future public health efforts related to cannabis.”

The growing acceptance of medical marijuana among health care professionals and patients is driving increased demand for cannabis-based treatments. Research into the medicinal properties of cannabis has uncovered its efficacy in alleviating symptoms associated with various medical conditions, including chronic pain, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and chemotherapy-induced nausea.

With mounting scientific evidence supporting the therapeutic benefits of cannabis, more patients are turning to medical marijuana as a viable alternative or complement to traditional pharmaceuticals.

The evolving regulatory landscape is favoring the growth of the medical marijuana industry. As governments recognize the potential economic benefits and public health advantages of legalizing medical cannabis, they are implementing regulatory frameworks to govern its production, distribution, and use.

Clearer regulations provide greater certainty for investors and businesses operating in the medical marijuana sector, fostering a conducive environment for growth and innovation.

Investing in medical marijuana stocks also offers diversification benefits to investors seeking exposure to high-growth industries. The medical cannabis market is relatively insulated from economic downturns and cyclical fluctuations, as demand for health care services and treatments remains resilient even during periods of economic uncertainty.

By allocating a portion of your portfolio to medical marijuana stocks, you can mitigate risk and enhance returns through exposure to a rapidly expanding industry.

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John Persinos is the editorial director of Investing Daily.

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