Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried – a former cannabis lobbyist whose fiancee created a cannabis company with Fried’s father – recently tweeted that “Legalizing cannabis solves lots of problems and creates none.”
Fried’s comments come despite several reports that show increases in hospitalizations and suicides due to the legalization of marijuana. Also, in 2019 a top US government mental health official noted that it “is time for Americans to understand there are substantial risks with marijuana.”
A NYT article from 2019 focused on the effects of legalization in Colorado. The article stated that while thousands “make uneventful stops at dispensaries every day” new problems have surfaced in Colorado. Since marijuana legalization in 2014, “more people here are visiting emergency rooms for marijuana-related problems, and hospitals report higher rates of mental-health cases tied to marijuana.”
The study cited by the NYT shows the rates of hospitalizations in Colorado with marijuana-related diagnosis codes increased from 274 per 100,000 hospitalizations in 2000 prior to any marijuana legalization to 593 per 100,000 hospitalizations in 2015 after two years of recreational marijuana legalization.
In addition, hospital data analyzed by Dr. Andrew Monte, an emergency and medical toxicology physician and researcher at the University of Colorado Hospital, also indicated that more people are arriving at emergency rooms for marijuana-related reasons. The NYT reported that some of these people “are heavy marijuana users with severe vomiting. Others are children who have eaten edibles, accidentally or not. They come to the E.R. disoriented, dehydrated or hallucinating after consuming too much marijuana.”
“There’s a disconnect between what was proposed as a completely safe drug,” Dr. Monte said. “Nothing is completely safe.”
And researchers have reported that patients in the E.R. with marijuana-related cases were five times as likely to have a mental-health issue as those with other cases.
“It is time for Americans to understand there are substantial risks with marijuana,” said Elinore McCance-Katz, the Department of Health and Human Services’ top mental health official. “This is not the government making up data.”
McCance-Katz taught at Yale and Brown universities and held senior posts for state substance abuse agencies before joining HHS under the Obama administration as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration chief medical officer.
She pointed out that hospitalizations more than doubled for serious mental health disorders among 18- to 25-year-olds nationally from 2012 to 2018. She cited a study in July that shows a 77% increase in suicide deaths from 2010 to 2015 among Colorado 10- to 19-year-olds with marijuana in their systems.