Hospital emergency rooms in Colorado are treating more tourists for pot-related ailments than state residents, says a new study by the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora, Colorado.
In the study, to be published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that the number of visitors' cannabis-related visits to a Denver hospital emergency room doubled from 2013 to 2014, the year when recreational pot became legal in the state.
The Denver hospital saw 85 cannabis-related visits for every 10,000 trips to the hospital in 2012, but 168 per 10,000 in 2014. As for residents, there were 112 visits relating to marijuana for every 10,000 visits in 2014.
"Realistically, these visits could have marijuana mentioned at one point if they came and had a heart attack and said they did smoke a week ago, that would be reflected," said Andrew Monte, assistant professor of emergency medicine and toxicology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.
The increase in visits also can be attributed to people being more likely to reveal pot usage to doctors because it is now legal.
"There's more communication between patients and providers, and of course there's just more marijuana out in the community," Monte said. "People can come in and say, 'Hey, I've got chest pains and I used marijuana a week ago.' Now, that's got nothing to do with the marijuana."
Pot tourism has ballooned in the state. A Colorado Tourism Office survey released in December showed 48 percent of summer travelers were influenced by legal recreational pot. But despite pot being a big draw for visitors, state tourism agencies have been reluctant to embrace marijuana as an attraction.
“Right now I wouldn’t say there would be a compelling argument, even if it were legal, for the Colorado Tourism Office to target the traveler because it’s such a small segment,” agency Director Cathy Ritter told the Denver Business Journal. “And it carries as many negatives as it does positives.”