KEY POINTS

  • Marijuana legalization adds to the pressure of emergency services in hospitals
  • Chicago hospitals ramping up emergency services expecting a spike in overdose issues
  • Colorado is a case study where legalization of marijuana led to a massive hike in emergency cases

In the light of experience from states where recreational marijuana was legalized, Illinois, bracing for legalization stepped up preparations to handle the expected spike in emergency cases in hospitals.

The emergency cases are mostly overdose cases. There was curiosity about how far Chicago is equipped with emergency admissions in hospitals.

When Colorado legalized recreational marijuana sales, more patients reported at emergency rooms carrying cannabis problems emanating from overdose issues.

CBS News surveyed the Chicago hospitals to look at their preparedness to handle an expectedly bigger number of patients when marijuana becomes legal in Illinois from the New Year.

In Colorado, at the University Of Colorado Hospitals, there were only 204 patients in 2012 with issues before legalization. The number quadrupled to 976 in 2016.

The same spike is expected by Illinois emergency room professionals.

On being asked how prepared are the state’s emergency rooms for legal marijuana, Rush University Medical Center Director Henry Swoboda said, “I think we’re seeing some of it already and we’re just kind of expecting more.”

On the preparations, Swoboda said the staff at Rush is evolving cannabis protocols to coordinate psychiatric and emergency teams for a calibrated patient response.

Medical marijuana has already caused an uptick in patients, he noted.

Unlike the medical variant, users are not conditioned to tackle the potency of legal weed. It is a matter of concern when recreational sales go mainstream.

According to Swoboda recreational marijuana is four times more potent and people may not feel the effects instantly and resort to overconsumption.

So the overuse of edibles including candies or brownies infused with marijuana will be an issue. 

In Colorado marijuana edibles were 0.3 percent of sales but it accounted for 10.7 percent of the total cannabis emergency room visits.

By overindulging in cannabis vomiting and psychosis will follow and will paralyze many actions including driving.

Council seeks delay 

Meanwhile, a Chicago City Council committee passed a bill seeking delay of the legal sale of marijuana until July 1 citing non-allocation of dispensaries to black and Latino sections. 

The full City Council’s vote is expected on Wednesday and there is a chance the Mayor might veto the resolution. 

Out of 10 dispensaries given licenses to sell recreational marijuana none of them are minority-owned, according to 28th Ward Alderman Jason Ervin.   Marijuana Overdose A Louisiana womans death is considered to be the first-ever recorded death due to marijuana overdose. While the coroner is “100 percent sure”, experts say otherwise. Photo: Brent Barnett / Pixabay

The NBC news report said Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has sought city-owned cannabis growing cooperative, to ensure minorities’ stake in the cannabis business. So, it is likely that the mayor might veto the bill.

The legalization of recreational marijuana in Illinois will make it the 11th state to legalize recreational use. 

The liberal law will allow adults aged 21 and above to buy and smoke marijuana from dispensaries across the state. But growing marijuana at home is not allowed except for registered medical marijuana patients. Also, public use of pot in places like bars and restaurants is prohibited.