Substance Abuse, Psychosis, Suicide: The True Cost of Legal Pot

“Cannabis dispensary workers (‘budtenders’) without medical training are giving medical advice that may be harmful to patients.” – National Institutes of Health | Image: Charles LeBlanc, CC BY-SA 2.0

“Cannabis legalization has led to significant health consequences, particularly to patients in emergency departments and hospitals in Colorado. The most concerning include psychosis, suicide, and other substance abuse.” 

Feb 18, 2020

CNN Business – Colorado cannabis shops notched sales of nearly $1.75 billion during 2019, setting a new annual sales record for the state home to the nation’s longest-established recreational cannabis industry.

The new high water mark for sales netted more than $302 million in tax revenue for the state’s coffers, where that money is divvied up into various buckets to fund programs such as school construction, law enforcement, public health, drug education and public safety.

The 2019 figures showcase a surprising surge in growth from a market that a year ago appeared to be flattening out.

Colorado’s cannabis sales increased 13% from 2018, bouncing back from a 2.5% year-over-year growth rate from 2017 to 2018.

Adams attributed the rebound in Colorado’s sales growth to two key factors: the increasing prevalence of non-flower products and changes in consumer behavior.

The profusion of edibles, beverages, vapes and concentrates resulted in a smaller market share for the familiar flower.

Separately, people are growing comfortable with buying cannabis products and integrating those purchases into their shopping patterns … Read more. 

“Legalized Cannabis in Colorado Emergency Departments: A Cautionary Review of Negative Health and Safety Effects”

US National Library of Medicine
National Institutes of Health
July 2019

by Brad A. Roberts, MD

“Cannabis use is associated with increased
rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide.”

Cannabis legalization has led to significant health consequences, particularly to patients in emergency departments and hospitals in Colorado. The most concerning include psychosis, suicide, and other substance abuse.

Deleterious effects on the brain include decrements in complex decision-making, which may not be reversible with abstinence.

Increases in fatal motor vehicle collisions, adverse effects on cardiovascular and pulmonary systems, inadvertent pediatric exposures, cannabis contaminants exposing users to infectious agents, heavy metals, and pesticides, and hash-oil burn injuries in preparation of drug concentrates have been documented. Cannabis dispensary workers (“budtenders”) without medical training are giving medical advice that may be harmful to patients.

Cannabis research may offer novel treatment of seizures, spasticity from multiple sclerosis, nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy, chronic pain, improvements in cardiovascular outcomes, and sleep disorders.

Progress has been slow due to absent standards for chemical composition of cannabis products and limitations on research imposed by federal classification of cannabis as illegal. Given these factors and the Colorado experience, other states should carefully evaluate whether and how to decriminalize or legalize non-medical cannabis use …

As of January 2018 in the United States, nine states have legalized cannabis for recreational use, with another 29 legalizing it for medical use. These policy changes have created broad interest in understanding the effects on public health and the healthcare system …

Cannabis Effects on Healthcare Resources in Colorado

ED visits and hospitalizations with marijuana-related billing codes have increased following legalization. Mental illness represents a concerningly large number of marijuana-related visits.

A retrospective review by Wang et al. reported Colorado Hospital Association hospitalizations and ED visits with marijuana-related billing codes.

Between 2000 and 2015, hospitalization rates increased 116% from 274 to 593 per 100,000 hospitalizations.

For primary diagnosis categories, the prevalence of mental illness was five-fold higher for ED visits and nine-fold higher for hospital admissions for patients with marijuana-related billing codes compared to those without.7 This data compared diagnostic categories between patients with a marijuana-related diagnostic code and those without.

Subsequent data by the CDPHE show significant increases in hospitalizations in each phase of marijuana legalization, increasing from 575 per 100,000 hospitalizations in 2000 to 2413 in the 2014–June 2015 period.

There are differences in incidence between the Wang study and the CDPHE report because the Wang study only included a patient’s healthcare event if a marijuana code was among the first three diagnostic codes, while the CDPHE study included marijuana diagnostic codes within the top 30. Read more. 

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