Denver hospital saw three times more marijuana-related ER visits after legalization

Emergency room visits related to marijauna consumption dramatically increased at a Colorado hospital in the years after the state legalized recreational use of the drug, according to a new study. 

The finding was revealed in a study published in Annals of Internal Medicine that researched the potentially negative consequences of marijuana use. 

The Associated Press reported on Monday that the study found that marijuana cases have increased three-fold at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital's emergency room since 2014. 

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Dr. Andrew Monte, a lead author of the study, told the AP that about a third of the patients were admitted to the hospital, an indication that they showed severe symptoms. 

The study also found that cases involving marijuana use increased over time. For example, the Denver area hospital's emergency room saw about one patient every other day with a marijuana-caused problem in 2012. By 2016, the emergency room was seeing about two to three patients daily with problems linked to marijuana use. 

In total, 2,567 emergency visits at the Denver hospital between 2012 and 2016 were caused by marijuana use. Colorado legalized sales of recreational marijuana in 2014. 

Monte acknowledged that these rates do not cause issues for the emergency department. But he told the AP it was a significant increase considering the already heavy workload demanded at hospitals.

Monte told the AP that the study was launched after hearing tourists' stories about emergency room visits stemming from eating marijuana-infused foods and candies. 

“It was hard to know if these were just anecdotes or if there was a true phenomenon,” Monte said, adding that three deaths associated with edibles also led to the study. No one has died of a marijuana overdose but in recent years several people have died from risky behavior or suicide while high.

The study's release comes as states around the nation relax laws related to marijuana use. 

Michigan became the 10th state last November to pass a bill allowing adults over 21 to legally use recreational marijuana. Medical marijuana is legal in 33 states and Washington, D.C.