More Tourists Hitting Colorado ERs for Pot Incidents

Study looks at possible effect of legalization
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 24, 2016 4:18 PM CST
In this Dec. 27, 2013 file photo, employees trim away leaves from marijuana plants to be packaged and sold at a dispensary in Denver.   (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, file)

(Newser) – Colorado's tourists aren't just buying weed now that it's legal—they're ending up in emergency rooms at rates far higher than residents, according to a new study. Doctors reviewed marijuana-related emergency-room admissions at a hospital near Denver International Airport during 2014, when the sale of recreational pot became legal. The physicians found that the rate of emergency-room visits possibly related to marijuana doubled among out-of-state residents in the first year of recreational pot sales. The rate went from 85 per 10,000 visits in 2013 to 168 per 10,000 visits in 2014. Among Colorado residents, the rate of emergency-room visits possibly related to cannabis use did not change significantly between 2013 and 2014. Among Colorado resident emergency-room patients, 106 per 10,000 visits complained of marijuana-related ailments in 2013 and 112 per 10,000 visits complained of marijuana-related ailments in 2014.

The difference between tourists and residents played out statewide, the AP reports. The doctors said the difference between tourists and residents caught them by surprise. "We didn't expect people from out of state to actually be coming to the emergency department mentioning this drug more often," says one. The study included all cases where patients mentioned cannabis. The increase has two likely explanations: more people using pot, and more patients fessing up about using pot to doctors because it's legal. Health authorities have warned that travelers likely use marijuana differently than people staying home. "You're more likely to overdo it on vacation, with marijuana just like with anything else," says a Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment rep. "You have that vacation mentality. You're there to have a good time." (Read more marijuana stories.)

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