Colorado’s Pot Tourists Keep Landing in the Emergency Room
While most travelers thrive in Colorado’s great outdoors, a new study reveals that tourists looking to take advantage of the state’s less-restrictive marijuana laws can’t handle their weed, winding up in the hospital at rates far higher than residents.
As the AP reported, a study, whose results will be published in the New England Journal of Medicine, looked at marijuana-related emergency room visits at one hospital in 2014—the year when the sale of recreational pot became legal—and found a surprising result.
The doctors discovered that after marijuana was legalized, out-of-state visitors were twice as likely to end up in the emergency room for reasons stemming from marijuana use. The rate went from 85 per 10,000 visits in 2013 to 168 per 10,000 visits in 2014. For locals, though, the rate of weed-related emergency room visits remained about the same (106 per 10,000 visits in 2013 vs. 112 per 10,000 visits in 2014.)
It’s important to note that for the most part, visitors weren’t going to the E.R. with pot overdoses, but rather people headed to the hospital when they discovered that marijuana was exacerbating an underlying medical condition. None of the cases were fatal.
The rate increase could have also been influenced by the fact that people could finally being forthcoming with their doctors about pot usage.
Since cannabis tourism is a boon to Colorado’s economy—the state set tourism records in 2014 for overall visitors (71.3 million) and tourist spending ($18.6 billion)—the government is working to educate tourists on how to get high responsibly. Last year, state health officials launched an educational campaign called “Good To Know,” which distributes pamphlets and information in pot dispensaries around the state.
"You're more likely to overdo it on vacation, with marijuana just like with anything else," Mike Van Dyke, the branch chief for environmental epidemiology at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, told the AP. "You have that vacation mentality. You're there to have a good time."
A 2015 survey by the Colorado Tourism Office found that the state’s lenient marijuana laws influenced vacation decisions nearly 49 percent of the time. Perhaps before planning a trip to Colorado, visitors should read Travel + Leisure’s article on how to detox like a local.