Impact of Marijuana Legalization in Colorado on Adolescent Emergency and Urgent Care Visits

J Adolesc Health. 2018 Aug;63(2):239-241. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2017.12.010. Epub 2018 Mar 30.


Purpose: Approximately 6%-8% of U.S. adolescents are daily/past-month users of marijuana. However, survey data may not reliably reflect the impact of legalization on adolescents. The objective was to evaluate the impact of marijuana legalization on adolescent emergency department and urgent cares visits to a children's hospital in Colorado, a state that has allowed both medical and recreational marijuana.

Methods: Retrospective review of marijuana-related visits by International Classification of Diseases codes and urine drug screens, from 2005 through 2015, for patients ≥ 13 and < 21 years old.

Results: From 2005 to 2015, 4,202 marijuana-related visits were identified. Behavioral health evaluation was obtained for 2,813 (67%); a psychiatric diagnosis was made for the majority (71%) of these visits. Coingestants were common; the most common was ethanol (12%). Marijuana-related visits increased from 1.8 per 1,000 visits in 2009 to 4.9 in 2015. (p = < .0001) CONCLUSIONS: Despite national survey data suggesting no appreciable difference in adolescent marijuana use, our data demonstrate a significant increase in adolescent marijuana-associated emergency department and urgent cares visits in Colorado.

Keywords: Adolescent; Cannabis; Colorado; Drug Abuse; Emergency Department; Marijuana; Mental Health.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Ambulatory Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cannabis / adverse effects
  • Colorado / epidemiology
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marijuana Abuse / epidemiology*
  • Marijuana Abuse / psychology*
  • Marijuana Use / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Marijuana Use / psychology*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Young Adult