Mountain News: Cannabis-caused visits to ER on the increase 

Colorado doctor says hospital visits related to over consumption of marijuana are frequent

click to enlarge PHOTO BY ALISON TAYLOR - SKY HIGH ER Medical workers in Telluride are reporting that the number of people showing up at the emergency room after ingesting significant amounts of marijuana is up.
  • Photo by Alison Taylor
  • SKY HIGH ER Medical workers in Telluride are reporting that the number of people showing up at the emergency room after ingesting significant amounts of marijuana is up.

TELLURIDE, Colo. — Cannabis shops opened for business on Jan. 1 in Telluride, and the town has had few problems, reports The Telluride Watch. People aren’t sitting on street corners toking up, at least not more than before. Some people are driving stoned, but again, how much more is unclear.

But still, there’s a difference now that buying marijuana is legal.

“In my first 10 years of work in emergency departments, I did not see one case of a patient who took too much marijuana to the point that it resulted in an emergency department visit,” says Daniel Hehir, a physician. “Now it is a frequent occurrence.”

A similar report comes from Emil Sante, who is the Telluride chief paramedic.

“We’re getting four or five pot calls a week from people who have over-indulged unknowingly or who are unfamiliar with smoking or eating marijuana.”

Those patients typically exhibit symptoms of panic attacks and severe anxiety, but he says this does not pose a significant threat to public health.

“It could be that some people who already have anxiety issues can cascade into other issues,” he said. “But they’re not serious medical issues.”

What about dogs? Allison Branson, a veterinarian, reported formerly treating two or three animals a year for marijuana-consumption ailments. This year, she has seen six since Jan. 1.

“Dogs will eat the pot plants, but they also really like the edibles, and they don’t need to eat a lot to have a problem.”

She tells The Watch that dogs typically look like they’re drunk. “They have an intention tremor, where their heads bob a bit. They also sometimes exhibit what’s called a truncal ataxia, where if you looked at them from the top, it almost looks like they’re making a wave motion with their body.”

But animals can die from ingesting cannabis, she says.

Of the six cases she’s seen this year, two of the dogs ate marijuana edibles off the street. But because dogs that consume antifreeze have similar symptoms, she said it’s difficult to identify marijuana as the culprit.

Given that Telluride Bluegrass and other festivals are coming, town officials are working with pot shops on developing public education and awareness.

Hehir, the physician, cautions that there is very poor standardization in the industry. “So be careful if you’re going to eat marijuana.”

In Denver, there is also concern about ingesting edible marijuana. In one case, a college student from Wyoming fell to his death after ingesting great amounts of THC-infused brownies. In another case, a man shot his wife. It’s not clear that either death can be directly linked to marijuana, however.

Driving-while-stoned laws still in a muddle

STEAMBOAT, Colo. — Colorado’s legalization of marijuana presented state lawmakers last year with the question of what constitutes driving while stoned. Unlike ingestion of alcohol, the law isn’t completely hard and fast, reports Steamboat Today. The state law says that it’s a misdemeanor for any person to drive a motor vehicle when the person’s blood-alcohol level is 0.08 or more while driving or within two hours after driving.

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