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How Does the Legalization of Marijuana Affect Our Community, Youth and Health?

Published in Addiction Services, Behavioral Health Services, Mental Health, For the Health of It Author: Kurt DeVine,MD,FASAM

Lessons Learned from State Marijuana Legalizations

Since Aug. 1, 2023, cannabis is legal for adults 21 and older to use and possess in Minnesota, making it the 23rd state in the country to legalize cannabis for recreational use.

What can Minnesota learn from the states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use?

More youth use it

Why is this concerning? Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is psychoactive, which means it changes how your brain works. For young people whose brains are still developing, using marijuana can cause permanent damage.

FACT: Marijuana use in 12- to 17-year-olds is increasing in states where marijuana is legal for adult use. In states where it’s legal, 7.7% of teens are using marijuana versus only 6.2% in other states.

Increased traces of marijuana found in people who died by suicide

FACT: In Colorado, they also have seen an increase in marijuana use in people ages 10-19 who died by suicide. In 2011-2013, 20.7% of young suicide victims were positive for THC. From 2014-2016, that number rose to 22.4%.

Marijuana gets into the hands of those who are not legal

FACT: Two studies of youth in Colorado showed that 50-70% of kids in outpatient treatment used marijuana that they obtained from adults with medical cannabis prescriptions.

In the first year after Colorado legalized marijuana, poison control calls increased by 80%. Marijuana exposure calls doubled in the first six years. The largest increase was for infants to 8-year-olds — a 230% increase.

Increase in marijuana-related hospitalizations

FACT: Emergency room visits associated with marijuana also increased in Colorado since it became legal. From 2013 to 2017, ER visits rose 54%. Marijuana-related hospitalizations soared 101% during the same period. There also are higher rates of marijuana-related driving fatalities.

Increase in homelessness

FACT: Homelessness also grew 13% from 2015-2016 in Colorado versus 3% nationally.

Marijuana is a big business in Colorado

FACT: Retail and medical stores outnumber the combined number McDonald’s and Starbucks in the state.

Marijuana is more potent than it used to be

FACT: In 1970, THC levels were 1-3%. Now with the genetically engineered plants, THC levels are greater than 15%. THC concentrate vapes and so on are widely available.