Colorado's Weed Tourists Are Also Keeping Its Hospitals in Business


There's a new breed of tourists flooding Colorado, and it turns out they can't hold their weed.

While most of the state's residents have managed to enjoy legalized marijuana without much consequence, the number of out-of-towners landing in emergency rooms for weed-related ailments is rising. According to a report in the New England Journal of Medicine, the rate of such visits for non-Colorado residents doubled between 2013 and 2014.

Read more: The Booming Marijuana Industry Is Still Too White

After surveying 100 different Colorado hospitals, the study found that in 2013, 85 per 10,000 ER visits were cannabis related, compared to 168 per 10,000 visits in 2014, the year marijuana retail sales began in Colorado.

David Zalubowski/AP

Emergency medicine physician Howard Kim told NPR that tourists often fall victim to the delayed effects of marijuana. "They don't feel anything. Then they take another one, and when the effect finally kicks in — now they have the effect of multiple products." Patients with marijuana intoxication show up in the ER complaining of everything from anxiety, quickened heart rates and vomiting to "brief psychotic episodes."

Colorado's Department of Public Health and Environment launched its "Good To Know" campaign in January 2015, which focuses on how to enjoy recreational marijuana responsibly. But the researchers behind the study claim the initiative may have overlooked an important demographic.

"The initial educational efforts through mass media have focused primarily on Colorado residents," they wrote. "These data underscore the importance of point-of-sale education for visitors regarding the safe and appropriate use of marijuana products."