Medical marijuana dispensary

An open sign is illuminated at a medical marijuana dispensary. Patients in Arizona currently pay $150 annually for a permit.

PHOENIX — Arizonans legally smoked, ate or otherwise consumed nearly 106 tons of marijuana last year.

That’s up 27% from 2019 figures. And it is nearly double the amount sold in 2018.

Hard to comprehend how much that is?

Consider, that’s the equivalent of about 423,000 eight-ounce bags of Cheetos. Or for those whose culinary hankerings are less salt-inclined, it’s nearly 2.2 million regular size Hershey bars and almost 2.5 million packages of Twinkies.

The latest report from the state Department of Health Services has no figures on how much Arizonans spent, as any financial data from the state-regulated dispensaries is confidential.

But if an ounce of average weed goes for $200 — and there’s a whole lot of variables there — that’s more than $675 million expended in 2020 on medical marijuana.

All that is just the stuff state health officials know about, based on the reports it gets from the more than 100 legal dispensaries around the state. The big unknown is how many medical marijuana patients are getting their drugs from other sources which may be more convenient — or cheaper.

And none of that counts for those who are buying and using the drug illegally.

Other findings in the new report also show that:

  • On average, more marijuana transactions occur in December than any other month;
  • Male patients outnumber female by 3-to-2.
  • And if you divide up the number of legal medical marijuana patients by the amount of the drug sold in Arizona law year, the average user consumed close to an ounce a month.

Under a 2010 voter approved law, patients with certain medical conditions and a doctor’s recommendation can obtain up to 2 1/2 ounces of marijuana every two weeks.

Those conditions range from cancer and glaucoma to AIDS and post-traumatic stress disorder. But by far the largest category of patients are those who complain of “chronic pain.’’

The most recent figures show there are more than 295,000 people who have cards allowing them to legally purchase the drug.

Health department figures also show that the vast majority of what was purchased last year was in whole marijuana form, meaning the leaves and flowers that can be smoked or made into tea. Only about 10 percent was in other forms, including edibles like candy bars and drinks, as well as pills and liquids.

The increase in usage has been constant.

Sales totaled 87,000 in 2017 and about 58,600 for the year after that. And that was a 52 percent increase over 2015 sales which, in turn, were double the 2014 numbers.

Medical marijuana patients by county

Apache — 1,101

Cochise — 4,118

Coconino — 6,220

Gila — 2,630

Graham — 1,238

Greenlee — 334

La Paz — 275

Maricopa — 196,397

Mohave — 6,176

Navajo — 3,712

Pima — 39,490

Pinal — 17,602

Santa Cruz — 958

Yavapai — 12,268

Yuma — 2,673

Outside of Arizona — 3

— Source: Arizona Department of Health Services