The number of teenagers sent to emergency rooms more than quadrupled after marijuana was legalized in Colorado — mostly for mental health symptoms, researchers reported Thursday.
They found 639 teenagers who went to one hospital system in Colorado in 2015 had either cannabis in their urine or told a doctor they’d been using cannabis. That’s up from 146 in 2005, before the use of marijuana was legalized in Colorado.
According to the AAP, researchers reviewed hospital system emergency department and urgent care records for 13-21-year-olds between January 2005 and June 2015 and found that the annual number of visits with a cannabis related diagnostic code or positive for marijuana from a urine drug screen more than quadrupled during the decade, from 146 in 2005 to 639 in 2014.
The study adds to a growing body of evidence demonstrating serious unintended consequences from the legalization experiment, including a tripling in fatal drugged driving crashes in Washington State, increased youth use, and a black market for the drug that continues to thrive.
The AAP research also casts doubt on previous information suggesting there has been no increase in drug use since legalization:
Dr. Wang, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, said national data on teen marijuana use suggest rates remained roughly the same (about 7%) in 2015 as they’d been for a decade prior, with many concluding no significant impact from legalization. Based on the findings of his study, however, he said he suspects these national surveys do not entirely reflect the effect legalization may be having on teen usage.
“The state-level effect of marijuana legalization on adolescent use has only begun to be evaluated,” he said. “As our results suggest, targeted marijuana education and prevention strategies are necessary to reduce the significant public health impact of the drug can have on adolescent populations, particularly on mental health.”
Evidence demonstrates that marijuana – which has skyrocketed in average potency over the past decade – is addictive and harmful to the human brain, especially when used by adolescents. Moreover, in states that have already legalized the drug, there has been an increase in drugged driving crashes and youth marijuana use. States that have legalized marijuana have also failed to shore up state budget shortfalls with marijuana taxes, continue to see a thriving black market, and are experiencing a continued rise in alcohol sales.