Take it easy, tourists.
A new study in The New England Journal of Medicine found that the majority of cannabis-related emergency room visits in Colorado involve tourists.
Data from more than 100 hospitals in the state from 2011 to 2014 confirmed findings that the researchers gathered while focused on a hospital in Aurora, Colorado, from 2012-2014. Voters approved cannabis legalization in 2012 and sales began in 2014.
At the Aurora hospital, tourist ER visits that might have been cannabis-related doubled from 85 to 168 per 10,000 visits between 2013 and 2014. Visits from Coloradans remained mostly steady, from 106 to 112.
Data from the 100 hospitals that were reported to the Colorado Hospital Association found that between 2012 and 2014, tourist ER visits possibly related to cannabis rose from 78 to 163 per 10,000. Their data showed more of an increase among Coloradans than the Aurora hospital found, from 70 to 101 during those years.
The researchers concluded that: “ED visits related to cannabis use appear to be increasing more rapidly among out-of-state residents than among Colorado residents. The initial educational efforts through mass media have focused primarily on Colorado residents. These data underscore the importance of point-of-sale education for visitors regarding the safe and appropriate use of marijuana products.”
The reasons for the the difference between rates of ER visits for tourists and residents, and for the overall increase in ER visits among both groups, is unclear. The Associated Press reported that the former could be due to tourists’ tendency to indulge while on vacation, and the latter could be due to post-legalization comfort admitting to cannabis use.
The state’s Good to Know campaign does provide adult use cannabis shops educational posters for their walls and educational materials for near the register.
A Colorado Tourism Office survey found, from 3,000 respondents, that 8 percent visited a dispensary during their visit, and of those 8 percent, 85 percent said cannabis was one of their primary reasons for visiting the state. Twenty percent of tourists said they would return because of cannabis, and 15 percent said they would not return because of cannabis.