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The positives and negatives of Colorado’s marijuana legalization

Posted on 04-13-16 in Addiction, Advocacy, Substance Abuse

The positives and negatives of Colorado’s marijuana legalization

A billion-dollar marijuana industry has emerged in Colorado since its legalization in January 2014. Since then, much has been debated about how Colorado has been affected, with arguments still weighing out the good and the bad of this legalization. According to a November 2015 survey, 53 percent believed legalizing marijuana has been good for the state, while 39 percent believed otherwise.

Drawbacks of legalization

While Dr. Larry Wolk, a prominent medical official in Colorado’s public health department, has seen no significantly disturbing public health trends have been cited so far, he did observe erratic reports of driving under the influence and people getting aggressively unwell from overindulging of marijuana.

Wolk explained how last month’s data depicted the largest surges in marijuana hospitalizations amongst those who were from out of the state and most likely were unaccustomed to the drug’s effects.

Similar trends have been outlined by a new study from Northwestern Medicine and the University of Colorado, School of Medicine. The study reports show that out-of-towners consuming marijuana in Colorado are increasingly landing in the emergency room.

“Emergency room visits related to cannabis use have increased more dramatically among out-of-state visitors than among Colorado residents,” stated lead investigator Dr. Howard Kim, a postdoctoral fellow in emergency medicine and an emergency medicine physician at Northwestern Medicine. “This may indicate that out-of-state visitors are unprepared for the adverse effects of marijuana use.”

Undesirable effects of excessive marijuana include:

  • Psychiatric symptoms such as anxiety, hallucinations and altered mental status
  • Cardiovascular symptoms such as a fast heart rate, high blood pressure or palpitations
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms including abdominal pain and vomiting

The investigation did not include a detailed study of whether emergency room visits were primarily attributed to edible or smoked cannabis products. However, edible products, such as candy or brownies, often do not have an immediate effect and consist of varying potencies, leading many users to consume more and varied products, resulting in an eventually stronger overdose.

Visitors from outside the state accredited for 78 per 10,000 emergency room visits in 2012 compared to 163 per 10,000 visits in 2014 for marijuana-related symptoms. This depicted an overwhelming increase of 109 percent.

Amongst the locals, marijuana-related visits were 70 per 10,000 in 2012 compared to 101 per 10,000 in 2014, which is an increase of 44 percent.

Benefits of legalization

Colorado has enjoyed $135 million in tax and fee revenue in the past year from the quickly emerging marijuana industry. Part of this money has gone toward educating the youth about marijuana and law enforcement on the drug.

State Representative Jonathan Singer believes legalization to have “allowed marijuana to pay its own way,” with the cost of regulation being paid for by retailers and consumers.

Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s “Good to Know” campaign has enhanced education of users across the state, as translated into lower rates of emergency department visits for Colorado locals. It is highly recommended for states considering legalizing marijuana to implement preventative public health education campaigns.

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About the author

Sana Ahmed is a staff writer for Sovereign Health Group. A journalist and social media savvy content developer with extensive research, print and on-air interview skills, Sana has previously worked as an editor for a business magazine and been an on-air news broadcaster. She writes to share the amazing developments from the mental health world and unsuccessfully attempts to diagnose her friends and family. For more information and other inquiries about this article, contact the author at