Pubdate: Tue, 19 Apr 2016
Source: Washington Times (DC)
Copyright: 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.
Author: Andrew Blake


Hospitals and treatment centers in Colorado have seen an increase in 
marijuana use among patients since recreational pot became legal in 
January 2014, while weed-related arrests have predictably plummeted 
significantly, a report reveals.

While the author of an 147-page study released by the Colorado 
Department of Public Safety on Monday cautions that it's too soon to 
measure perfectly the impact of the state's first-in-the-nation 
recreational marijuana laws, statistics suggest that facilities have 
seen a surge with respect to patients who were hospitalized after 
consuming cannabis.

 From 2001 to 2009, around 809 of each 100,000 hospitalizations 
recorded within Colorado involved patients who admitted to marijuana 
use, according to the report. For the period from 2014 to June 2015, 
the statistic surged to 2,413 hospitalizations per 100,000.

Phone calls made to poison control centers involving marijuana 
exposure increased as well, from 44 in 2006 to 227 in 2015, the report said.

With regard to treatment centers, The Denver Post noted that more 
than one-third of patients at Colorado facilities reported near daily 
use of marijuana in 2014, up from less than a quarter in 2007.

The number of people seeking treatment for pot has dropped, however, 
likely because fewer individuals end up being court-ordered to seek 
treatment because marijuana-related convictions dropped significantly 
after recreational weed became legal.

Marijuana arrests across Colorado decreased by 46 percent from 2012 
to 2014, according to the report, and made up 3 percent of the total 
number of arrests in 2014, down from 6 percent two years earlier, 
before weed was legalized.

Nevertheless, Jack Reed of the Public Safety Department's office of 
research and statistics wrote that further research is required 
before officials can make any real determinations with regard to 
marijuana trends since legalization.

"It is too early to draw any conclusions about the potential effects 
of marijuana legalization or commercialization on public safety, 
public health or youth outcomes," he said, "and this may always be 
difficult due to the lack of historical data."

In agreement is Mason Tvert, a marijuana legalization supporter and 
director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project in Colorado.

Speaking to The Washington Times on Monday, he said the report should 
be interpreted with caution and noted that its findings doesn't 
necessarily mean more people are being hospitalized as a result of 
marijuana consumption - but rather that the number of incidents being 
reported is on the rise.

"You're going to have people more open to mentioning that they've 
used marijuana," he said. "But there's no actual evidence to 
demonstrate that marijuana is causing the person to go to the 
hospital in all of these cases."

Indeed, the Department of Public Safety acknowledges that the 
hospital visits described in the report aren't guaranteed to be 
marijuana-motivated but are simply incidents in which "it is a possibility."

"I think it's pretty safe to say people are going to be more inclined 
to mention it than when it was illegal," Mr. Tvert told The Times.

Laws that legalize or largely decriminalize recreational marijuana 
for adults have passed in Washington state, the District of Columbia, 
Oregon and Alaska in the years since Colorado approved Amendment 64 
and in turn began allowing individuals older than 21 to buy marijuana 
and cannabis-infused products from state-sanctioned retailers.

In February, the St. Charles Health System told a Central Oregon NBC 
affiliate that marijuana-related emergency room visits in the region 
have increased by 1,967 percent since 2010, with the biggest spike 
right before recreational pot became legal there in October.

Doctors at the time told KTVZ that cannabis-infused edibles are 
routinely to blame for those hospitalizations, and Paul Armentano, 
deputy director for the National Organization for the Reform of 
Marijuana Laws (NORML), told The Times that cannabis products that 
can be covertly consumed, such as edibles, need to be adequately 
labeled to keep emergency room visits from increasing further.

"Despite the change in state law, cannabis use is still forbidden in 
public places and also may not be legally consumed in private, 
nonresident establishments, such as in hotels or bars. As a result, 
many consumers, and out-of-state visitors in particular, are more 
likely to purchase formulations of cannabis that they can consume 
clandestinely, such as edible products or concentrates," he said.

These forms of marijuana consumption are likelier to cause health 
complications, he said.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom