Marijuana-related ER visits and hospitalizations skyrocket

I realize some Daily Dispatch readers don’t like my writing about marijuana.

(Hopefully, you’re still reading.)

But facts are stubborn things. And as more facts about the dangers of marijuana come out from the underground, we simply have more information with which to work. In fact, a new analysis of government data shows marijuana isn’t a benign, problem-free substance. Far from it.

But before I get into the new, uncovered facts about marijuana, let me make two things clear…

First, I don’t think the government should pick and choose which consumer products, including herbs of all kinds, are legal or illegal…which are taxed or not taxed… or which are “winners” or “losers” in a free-market society. (Or even in a hypothetically, partially free-market society, such as ours.)

Second, the government’s “war on drugs” has been a colossal failure. A gigantic waste of taxpayer dollars. And the biggest, single promoter of violent crime since Prohibition of alcohol in the “Roaring ’20s” almost 100 years ago. That attempt at government control also failed.

Nevertheless, I don’t recommend using marijuana recreationally…or medicinally. I know too much about how it behaves in the body. And we’re learning more every day.

But when we classify any natural substance as illegal, it also interferes with our freedom to study its effects.

Ironically, now that marijuana is legal in many states, we finally have more scientific data to study.

And that data doesn’t look good…

In fact, according to new research, marijuana use and abuse has increased significantly during the past few years. Especially in states where use of the substance is now legal.

An analysis of data from the U.S. Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP) found that many more patients than ever wind up in emergency rooms for mental health breakdowns relating to marijuana use–from secondary psychosis to anxiety.

In addition, it showed that ER visits for marijuana toxicity grew 50 percent between 2007 and 2012 in Colorado. Of course, Colorado was one of the first states to legalize medicinal marijuana, and then recreational marijuana.

A sampling of other states where you can legally use the drug only medicinally also showed large, rapid increases in ER visits for marijuana toxicity during the same five-year period. Researchers found the largest increase occurred in Hawaii (55 percent), followed by New Jersey (49 percent), and Arizona (32 percent).

Perhaps they should change the traditional island greeting of “A-lo-ha” to “A-high-ha.”

By contrast, in states where the drug remains completely illegal, the increases in marijuana-related ER visits were much lower. Oklahoma saw a 7 percent increase. And South Carolina showed barely any increase at 0.7 percent.

Interestingly, it doesn’t seem to make much difference statistically whether marijuana is legalized for medicinal use only or for recreational use as well. People with access to it often take too much, feel terrible, and end up in the emergency room…or worse, admitted to the hospital.

As I explained last year, marijuana use clearly increases your risk of suffering from mental illness.  And the new study’s author suggested that ER doctors should start routine urine screening for marijuana to evaluate how it affects mental health.


  1. “Cannabis–‐Related ED Visits Rise in States With Legalized Use,” Academy of Addiction Psychiatry (AAAP), 25th Annual Meeting, ( December 2014