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Updated Jan 16, 2014 - 5:08 pm

Arizona patients bought 3 tons of legal pot in 2013

PHOENIX -- A new report from state health officials shows Arizona medical marijuana patients bought nearly three tons of weed in 2013 from 71 licensed dispensaries, state health officials said Thursday.

The year-end report released Thursday by the Department of Health Services also showed more than 70 percent of those buyers were men and more than 73 percent cited chronic pain when applying for their medical marijuana card.

There were more than 422,000 purchases reported from nearly 41,000 cardholders, according to the department, which oversees the medical marijuana program.

The state estimated that dispensaries bought in about $33 million in revenue last year based on a $350 an ounce price.

The average patient bought marijuana 10 times and more sales were recorded on Fridays and Saturdays than on other days.

Arizona voters approved sales of medical marijuana in 2010 by a narrow margin of about 4,300 votes.

The report quantifies how much marijuana patients are legally purchasing. It remains unclear how much pot is being grown by caregivers who can legally cultivate the plant in some instances.

"It is encouraging to see that patients are utilizing licensed dispensaries as the voters intended," said Ryan Hurley, an attorney for the Arizona Organix dispensary in Glendale. "Unfortunately, it is difficult to tell whether these numbers accurately reflect patient use as there are still a number of illegal, unlicensed and unregulated marijuana clubs that have yet to be shut down by law enforcement."

It wasn't immediately clear Thursday how Arizona's medical marijuana numbers compare to other states.

Nearly two dozen states have approved marijuana for medicinal purposes, and Colorado and Washington have legalized its use for pleasure.

In Arizona, medical marijuana patients are limited to purchasing 2 1/2 ounces every two weeks.

The health services department's report also showed five dispensaries accounted for 40 percent of the total marijuana sold. Confidentiality laws prohibit the state from identifying the dispensaries.

Patients between 18 and 30 years old had the highest number of transactions, followed by patients aged 31 to 40, and then patients between the ages of 51 and 60.

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