by on July 5, 2018

in Monthly


Since the current Canadian government informed the nation that they intend to legalize marijuana, much has been written on this extremely controversial and at times confusing topic.

Some of the writing dealt with facts; some failed miserably to hide biases–both sides being guilty of dishonesty and subjectivity. More recently, the medical writer for Canada’s National Newspaper, Andre Picard, went on record to claim that Canadian children will be fine, and that anyone who questions that, may simply be over-reacting. Picard argues alcohol is far more dangerous.

For almost 20 years I have had the privilege to write a monthly piece for this paper. The most controversial piece in the past two decades, was the only article I wrote on marijuana. It was published in The Herald in 2013—around the time Colorado legalized marijuana.

Colorado started its experience with marijuana in 2006 with the pre-commercialization of medical marijuana; in 2009 medical marijuana was commercialized; and in 2013 marijuana became legal.

Every year since the legalization, the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (RMHIDTA) published data tracking outcomes and the impact of legalized marijuana.

The areas in which RMHIDTA collected data on were: impaired driving and fatalities; youth marijuana use; adult use; and emergency room admissions.

Here is a brief summary of the facts:
—Marijuana-related traffic deaths when a driver was positive for marijuana more than doubled from 55 deaths in 2013 to 125 deaths in 2016. Between 2013 and 2016 marijuana-related traffic deaths increased 66%.

—The use of marijuana (over a past month) by youth increased 12% since legalization, compared to pre-legalization use (The argument that youth already consume it, and that legalization will not increase marijuana, is not supported by facts after five years of collecting data). Colorado youth ranked #4 in the USA prior to legalization. It now ranks #1. The use by youth of marijuana in Colorado is now 55% higher than the national average of the USA (In 2012 it was 39% higher)

—College age use of marijuana increased 16 % since legalization. It is now 61 % higher than the national average.

—The yearly rate of ER visits related to marijuana increased 35% after legalization.

—The yearly number of marijuana-related hospitalizations increased 72% since legalization.

A few specifics regarding the use by youth stood out.

The increase in use by High Schoolers was 14% for seniors and 19% among juniors; in middle-school there was a 96% increase for 7th graders and 144% among 6th graders. (It means that more children are using marijuana earlier and most accessed it via older students)

ER doctors who worked in ERs both prior and subsequent to legalization offer useful observations. In addition to an increase in calls to poison control lines and the visits due to psychotic episodes, toddlers intoxicated due to edibles and toddlers who ate marijuana plants dramatically increased. The number of teens sent to the ER quadrupled after marijuana was legalized—mostly for mental health symptoms.

A number of youth admitted in ERs were riding their bicycles while under the influence of marijuana.

At this time most of the ER doctors in Canada admit they have little experience in managing toddlers who ingested parts of a marijuana plant. The impact of edible products and the accidental ingestion of parent’s medical marijuana seem to be common themes in the USA.

In States where marijuana is legal, there has been a steady rise in a syndrome previously not taught in medical school—CHS or cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS is marked by severe abdominal pain and vomiting. It was almost never seen prior to legalization)

The advertisements of medical marijuana have contributed to teens perceiving the product as safe, legal and harmless. Medical marijuana, supposedly prescribed for legitimate health reasons, was not always subjected to the same rigors before being sold as such. The lack of proper, and consistent peer-reviewed studies cannot be ignored, unless we agree that “medical” often means anecdotal evidence.

The RMHIDTA data also showed that pot smoking was common among pregnant teens. A recent national survey in the USA which involved 14, 400 pregnant women aged 12-44 found more than twice as many pregnant 12-17 year olds use marijuana as their non-pregnant peers.

Prior to legalization, the argument was made that legalization will result in reduced traffic fatalities, since users will switch from alcohol to marijuana, which does not impair driving to the same degree. This is not the case. In fact, data shows that the number of fatalities due to marijuana in some regions has exceeded the number of fatalities caused by drunk driving.

The American Academy of Pediatrics opposes medical and recreational marijuana use for kids. The Canadian Pediatric Society has their different opinion on the matter (

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