According to a group of doctors working in Colorado, the number of emergency room visits by out-of-state tourists who had used marijuana has doubled since the state began selling recreational cannabis.
The group, which consists of five doctors, revealed their findings in a letter that was published today by The New England Journal of Medicine.
In particular, they were interested in how many of those visiting the ED were there for things possibly related to cannabis use.
“At our institution, the rate of ED visits possibly related to cannabis use among out-of-state residents doubled from 85 per 10,000 visits in 2013 to 168 per 10,000 visits in 2014, which was the first year of retail marijuana sales,” the group of doctors wrote in their letter, which was published today in The New England Journal of Medicine.
During that same time period, the number of ED visits from Colorado residents that may have been related to marijuana use remained more or less the same.
Dr. Andrew Monte, one of the doctors who helped write the letter, gave reporters a more detailed explanation about the increase in ED visits by out-of-state marijuana users.
He said that marijuana using tourists who find themselves in the ED can be placed in one of three general categories.
The first category are those who already have some sort of pre-existing medical condition that heavy cannabis use may exacerbate.
Monte cited certain types of anxiety disorders or heart conditions as possible examples of this. If a person has heart disease, he explained, using edibles might produce a sudden increase in heart rate that could become dangerous.
The second group of marijuana using ED patients are those who experience injuries while high. This includes things like getting into a car accident after smoking or eating an edible.
The third and final group are those who have an adverse reaction to cannabis or who get too high and start panicking.
“Those are disproportionately due to edibles,” Monte said.
The dosage and potency of edibles can both be difficult to gauge, largely because the effects of edibles take longer to set in than the effects of smoking.
In Colorado, medical marijuana was legalized in 2000, but with heavily restrictive regulations. In 2009, medical marijuana laws were changed to allow for dispensaries to sell cannabis to qualified patients.
Recreational marijuana won the vote in 2012, and was fully implemented in 2014.