As of January 2018, recreational marijuana has been legalized in nine of the 50 U.S. states, including Colorado, California, Maine, Washington, and more. States that legalize marijuana generally see a sharp increase in tax revenues. The results aren’t all positive, though, especially when it comes to public health.
Marijuana’s negative side effects often raise concerns about mental health, especially in adolescents. Women who smoke marijuana while pregnant might also bring harm to their kids. Are the possible health care and legal costs worth the decrease in marijuana-related arrests?
Increased emergency room visits
The state of Colorado noted a significant increase in teens being rushed to emergency departments after marijuana officially became legal for recreational use in 2014. Hundreds of teens experience symptoms of poor mental health, such as psychosis.
Other states that have legalized recreational marijuana use have reported similar trends in ER visits among kids and teens who probably shouldn’t have had access to it.
Next: These centers started getting more calls after legalization went into effect.
More calls to poison control
Some studies have suggested that calls to poison control involving children may have increased following marijuana legalization in states like Oregon.
However, it’s possible certain spikes in the frequency of these calls were correlation, not causation. It’s too early to tell for sure — researchers will have to continue monitoring the data to learn more about marijuana’s actual role in the matter.
Next: Is legalization ruining young people’s futures?
Lower average income
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note some evidence that teenagers who use marijuana are at an increased risk of underachieving academically and in their future educational and career goals. Legalization might cost some their futures, though, as with much of the research conducted on this topic so far, it’s too early to know the exact consequences for sure.
Next: Some of the youngest members of the population might be affected.
Hospitals in Colorado reported an increase in babies born THC-positive after marijuana became legal in the state. For now, these children don’t seem to be negatively affected by the chemical their mothers exposed them to, but that could change.
Researchers aren’t sure yet how this might affect children later in life. It wouldn’t be ethical to force pregnant mothers to use cannabis, so we’ll learn more as time goes on.
Next: It’s getting harder for marijuana users to breathe.
More cases of chronic bronchitis
States that legalize marijuana have seen a decrease in illicit opioid use — which is a worthwhile benefit health officials are grateful for. Unfortunately, using marijuana can still cause health problems, though not nearly as fatal as opioid addiction or overdose.
People who smoke marijuana are at an increased risk of contracting bronchitis and similar health issues, which, though a minor inconvenience in comparison, is still a problem.
Next: This might be more problematic than driving while intoxicated.
Driving while stoned
It’s pretty easy for law enforcement to test a driver’s level of intoxication on the side of the road. There aren’t breathalyzer-like tests to detect marijuana use, though, which makes it a lot harder for police to prove you are — or aren’t — driving while under the influence.
Roadside accidents related to marijuana use increase in Colorado after legalization, and may also do so in California. It’s a constant worry for law enforcement officials.
Next: Law enforcement wastes a lot of their time on this particular problem.
Cheap, illegal pot
The marijuana “black market” is still a problem in states like California which have legalized and regulated it. This is because growers can produce and sell it for cheap, while also making a huge profit exporting it to other states — which is also not legal.
California law enforcement regularly conduct raids of these illegal operations, and they don’t expect to stop just because it’s legal within their state.
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