Breaking down the numbers

As with anything, anecdotes tell only part of the story about medical marijuana — statistics tell the rest.

Of the nearly 20,000 state-registered medical marijuana cardholders, the vast majority list severe pain, muscle spasms or nausea as their reason for using pot, according to information released by the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program in July.

Severe pain was listed by 17,284 people as their qualifying condition for the program, 4,528 people list muscle spasms and 3,114 list nausea. (Patients can list more than one diagnosed medical condition.)

The numbers of people who have been diagnosed with other qualifying conditions are in the hundreds, not thousands.

Only 584 have been diagnosed with cancer, 579 with seizures, 493 with Cachexia (weight loss and muscle atrophy), 384 with HIV or AIDS, 316 with glaucoma and less than 50 with Alzheimer's disease, according to the OMMP. That makes for a total of less than 2,000 registered cardholders who have been diagnosed with the above conditions, or roughly 10 percent of all approved medical marijuana users in the state.

The OMMP denied about 700 applications over the last year, and about 1,229 applications were still pending on July 1, when the information was released.

About half of all cardholders have selected someone to grow their marijuana for them, according to the data.

Fewer than 3,000 Oregon-licensed physicians have signed applications for patients seeking medical marijuana.

Jackson County has 1,801 registered users, according to the data. When that number is divided by the July 2007 population estimate — the latest data available from the U.S. Census Bureau — and compared to other Oregon counties, Jackson County ranks seventh in a list of the counties with the highest number of cardholders per capita.

Josephine County has the highest ratio of cardholders to population and Curry County comes in second. Douglas, Coos, Tillamook and Lincoln counties all rank ahead of Jackson County. Multnomah County is roughly in the center of the list and Malheur County comes in last, with just 55 registered cardholders in a county of 31,620 people. (Specific data is not given for Gilliam, Grant, Harney, Morrow, Sherman, Wallowa and Wheeler counties, because they have a combined total of only 150 cardholders.)

New statistics on the OMMP are updated on the state Web site,, every quarter. The next update will occur Oct. 1.

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