While cannabis enthusiasts assert that weed is harmless, according to a new study, the legalization of marijuana in Colorado has led to an increase in emergency room visits.
"Recreational cannabis went on sale in 2014 and it has led to an increase in emergency department visits, according to a new study," reports CNN. "Although inhaled cannabis leads to more visits overall, new research says, edibles — foods containing cannabis extract — account for more visits for psychiatric and cardiovascular symptoms."
Colorado legalized cannabis for recreational use in 2014 after allowing it for medicinal purposes in 2009. Between 2012 and 2016, UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital saw a "threefold increase" in ER visits related to cannabis use — 9,973 cases. Dr. Andrew A. Monte, an emergency medicine physician at the hospital, said the research stemmed from his colleagues witnessing a high number of cannabis-related visits without any data to back up the spotted pattern.
Published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, the study showed that edible cannabis accounted for 10.7% of emergency room visits despite those being just 0.32% of cannabis sales in the state. In 2015, for instance, one man committed suicide after consuming such a product.
"We observed a higher number of visits attributable to edibles than expected, and there was no data to determine if this was indeed true," said Monte. "There have been several high-profile deaths due to cannabis edibles but no documented death attributable to inhaled cannabis."
Dr. G. Sam Wang, a pediatric emergency medicine physician and toxicologist at Children's Hospital Colorado, told CNN that edible cannabis indeed has a different effect on the body, noting that it can last longer due to the body absorbing it more slowly, sometimes prompting users to overuse it for lack of immediate effect. Wang also noted that children have been exposed to edible cannabis accidentally. "I typically see the kids who unintentionally ingest cannabis, kids who use it medically or teenagers who recreationally use it."
Colorado is one of many states increasingly embracing marijuana. Since California legalized marijuana in 2017, the move to make a social scene out of the recreational drug has been ongoing in certain parts of the state, primarily in the Bay Area and Los Angeles. The ultra-liberal town of West Hollywood is vying to become another red light district with Amsterdam-style pot lounges. According to Bloomberg, the city has already begun accepting applications.
The marijuana industry has even begun a campaign of political correctness by advising people to stop using the word "pot" when referring to the drug because it's an offensive term. According to Anchorage Daily News, the marijuana industry has grown very self-conscious of the stereotypical image of "the stoner" and wants to clean up the stigma.