When a substance is regulated, there’s usually an expectation that the industry and the substance will become safer and more controlled. It’s a key argument that many marijuana legalization advocates put forth in states across the country. Now that recreational and medical marijuana has been legalized in 33 states altogether, has weed become safer?
Not necessarily. While it’s still a relatively new development, legal marijuana has had some positive outcomes for states and communities as well as some unintended consequences that are beginning to surface.
Since the laws changed to allow recreational and medical use of marijuana across the nation and in Colorado, for example, there have been some worrying trends in drug use.
Increase in Marijuana Addiction and Toxicity
Colorado was one of the early states to legalize weed, and the marijuana addiction statistics are in: weed has become more potent, more people are addicted to marijuana, and there’s a rise in use by children.
A study based out of Colorado’s Children’s Hospital estimates that there is a 27% increase in emergency treatment for marijuana toxicity in children and teenagers. The overwhelming majority of these cases happened in states that have legalized marijuana.
Another disturbing trend with marijuana and children is the number of young children that accidentally ingest weed. A study in the journal JAMA Pediatrics reported that the rates of marijuana exposure to young children increased by 150% since 2014. Products like cookies, brownies, candy, and other sweet edibles that contain marijuana are commonly sold in dispensaries and weed retail outlets. When young, unsupervised children get their hands on these sweets and eat them, it can be extremely dangerous and even deadly. Half of the children in the study were monitored in the hospital, and 15% were admitted into the intensive care unit (ICU). Two of the patients had to be intubated on a breathing machine to help them recover from the exposure.
What is to blame for these crises? Obviously, a lack of supervision led the children to get their hands on the edibles. But, in addition to that, there is an underlying factor that is behind many of the negative consequences for both accidental ingestions as well as the rise in use and addiction by teenagers: marijuana has become much, much more potent.
In Colorado, marijuana potency has skyrocketed. It’s common for marijuana strains to contain as much as 30% THC, which is a massive increase compared to weed in the 1990s that had only 4% THC. Stronger weed and weed products mean that exposures to children are more dangerous, and the potential for addiction among children and teenagers is even greater.
Economic Impact of Marijuana
Like any new initiative, it’s difficult to anticipate the consequences. A large driver for legalizing marijuana in states was to add to the economy. In that respect, legal marijuana has been a huge success, adding to states’ tax revenue, providing new jobs, and stimulating local economies. However, it’s now up to states like Colorado to figure out how to curb Colorado youth marijuana use, prevent addiction, and limit and treat exposure to marijuana by young children.
If you, your teen, or another loved one has a problem with marijuana, please contact The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake to learn more about treatment options. There is hope, and you are not alone.
Chatterjee, Rhitu. “Highly Potent Weed Has Swept the Market, Raising Concerns About Health Risks.” May 15, 2019. National Public Radio. Accessed September 11, 2019.
Wang, George Sam, Marie-Claire Le Lait, Sara J. Deakyne, Alvin C. Bronstein, Lalit Bajaj, and Genie Roosevelt. 2016. “Unintentional Pediatric Exposures to Marijuana in Colorado, 2009-2015“. JAMA Pediatrics. 170 (9): e160971. Accessed September 11, 2019.
Wang, George Sam, Sara Deakyne Davies, Laurie Seidel Halmo, Amy Sass, and Rakesh D. Mistry. 2018. “Impact of Marijuana Legalization in Colorado on Adolescent Emergency and Urgent Care Visits“. Journal of Adolescent Health. 63 (2): 239-241. Accessed September 11, 2019.