Colorado tourists can't handle their high and clog hospitals with "weed overdoses"

Colorado tourists can't handle their high and clog hospitals with "weed overdoses"

VicesFebruary 25, 2016 By Dave Reuss

Let's say your shitty state won't allow you to buy weed, so you plan a visit to Colorado. That's great. Come on down. We'll even pack the first bowl. 

But what's not great is when you fly in from Cow Tip, Iowa, thinking you're the next Snoop Dogg and hit things a little too hard. Not only do you burn down one too many, but then you have the supreme lack of coolness to think that you're gonna die and waste everyone's time by going to the hospital. 

Physicians found that the rate of emergency room visits possibly related to marijuana have doubled among out-of-state travelers in the first year of recreational pot sales. The rate went from 85 per 10,000 visits in 2013 to 168 per 10,000 visits in 2014.

That's a grand total of 168 times when hard-working doctors, nurses and techs had their time wasted on out-of-towners that thought they were gonna die, but ended up fine anyway. 

What the hell, other states? 

Among Colorado residents, the rate of emergency-room visits possibly related to cannabis use did not change significantly between 2013 and 2014. Among Colorado resident emergency-room patients, 106 per 10,000 visits complained of marijuana-related ailments in 2013 and 112 per 10,000 visits complained of marijuana-related ailments in 2014.

We're not perfect either, but the legalization did just about nothing to change our rates. 

Tourists and Coloradans also had different complaints related to marijuana. Coloradans across the time period mostly complained of gastrointestinal problems, while the most common ailment by visitors was psychiatric, including aggressive behavior and hallucinations.

Men were two to three times more likely than women among both groups to complain of cannabis-related ailments in emergency rooms. Coloradans were slightly younger than out-of-state residents, with a median age of 34 for residents and a median age of 35.5 for visitors.

"We didn't expect people from out of state to actually be coming to the emergency department mentioning this drug more often," says Dr. Andrew Monte, a toxicologist and emergency-room physician at the University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora. He clearly thought people could handle their shit a little bit better, but he was wrong. 

But in the end, having legal sticky icky has been a good thing. 

Colorado set records in 2014 for overall visitors (71.3 million) and tourist spending ($18.6 billion). But Colorado had also set records in the previous three years, when pot sales were restricted to state residents with medical ailments. (Tourist numbers for 2015 aren't yet available.)

The Colorado Tourism Office did report in a 2015 visitor survey that the marijuana laws influenced vacation decisions nearly 49% of the time.