Colorado marijuana health trends mostly positive but still bear watching

By: Jakob Rodgers-Colorado Springs GAZETTE, January 31, 2017, Updated: Today at 7:04 am

FILE – In this Sept. 15, 2015 file photo, marijuana grows at a medical marijuana cultivation center in Albion, Ill. (AP)
Marijuana-related emergency room visits dropped, accidental poisonings are down and recreational marijuana failed to bring a much-feared spike in adolescent pot use.
The results were detailed Tuesday in the latest report by the Retail Marijuana Public Health Advisory Committee – a group of epidemiologists, toxicologists, psychiatrists, physicians and public health officials studying health-related marijuana trends in Colorado.
The group also reviews scientific literature about the drug, and its latest report offers a one-stop shop for marijuana-related data, including several previously-released surveys.
Emergency room visits dropped by a quarter from 2014 to 2015, the report found. The Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center also reported a drop in the number of marijuana exposure calls from 229 in 2015 to 201 last year.
The state’s chief toxicologist, Mike Van Dyke, called the trends “encouraging,” because it signaled that education campaigns by either the state or the marijuana industry appear to be resonating with users.
But he added: “The problem isn’t solved.”
“The good news is the trend is downward,” he said. “The bad news is it’s still happening.”
Overall marijuana-related hospitalizations have increased since 2008, the report said, and calls to the poison center are still higher than before medical marijuana became commercialized.
Van Dyke also pointed out at that least 16,000 children are at risk of second-hand marijuana smoke, and 14,000 appear at risk of accidentally ingesting marijuana products, because they aren’t safely stored.
He added that other trends – such as the rate of pregnant women using marijuana – still bear watching.
Across the state, 6 percent of pregnant women use marijuana, the report found. The rate is higher among less-educated women, and for those with unintended pregnancies.
One “surprising” finding: Colorado high school students don’t appear to be smoking marijuana any more than adolescents elsewhere in the nation.
Roughly one in five Colorado high school students reported using marijuana in the last month, mirroring the national average.
“The question is – has legalized marijuana truly increased the accessibility for marijuana for high school kids?” Van Dyke said. “I don’t think we have the answer yet. But it’s an important question to continue to look at.”

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