Marijuana Legalization Linked to More ER Visits

A new study is shedding light on one of the growing impacts of marijuana legalization across the country: It is leading to more ER visits.

Researchers in Colorado, where cannabis for recreational use was legalized in 2012, examined the records of nearly 10,000 patient ER visits at one hospital there from 2012-2017 where the diagnosis was related to cannabis use. Results, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, found that ER visits connected to marijuana had tripled over the five-year period.

The research also showed that an ER visit was more common after a person ate a marijuana edible compared with smoking marijuana. About 10% of ER visits were due to someone consuming an edible, even though edibles account for about 0.32% of marijuana sales in the state. A person may not feel the high from eating an edible until two to three hours after consumption. That might lead an individual to eat more edibles – and ingest more marijuana – potentially leading to problems.

When compared with those who inhaled or smoked marijuana, edibles were also associated with higher rates of psychiatric and cardiovascular symptoms, as well as intoxication, in the emergency room.