Drug Law

Marijuana Use Rarely Leads to Emergency Room, Study Shows

| by Marijuana Policy Project

Researchers at the University of Michigan have sifted through nationwide data to determine the prevalence of different drug-related emergency room

visits and (surprise, surprise!) their recently released results show that “marijuana dependence was associated with the lowest rates” of emergency room visits.

NORML’s Paul Armentano has broken down the study here on Alternet:

Among those surveyed, subjects that reported using cannabis were the least likely to report an ED visit (1.71 percent). Respondents who reported lifetime use of heroin, tranquilizers, and inhalants were most likely (18.5 percent, 6.3 percent, and 6.2 percent respectively) to report experiencing one or more ED visits related to their drug use.

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Investigators concluded, “[M]arijuana was by far the most commonly used (illicit) drug, but individuals who used marijuana had a low prevalence of drug-related ED visits.”

Paul also points to a recently released RAND study that found California hospitals received only 181 admissions related to marijuana in 2008, compared to an estimated 73,000 such admissions related to alcohol.

This is extremely valuable information in the debate over marijuana prohibition, since opponents of legalization—including the nation’s drug czar—consistently argue that marijuana’s “social costs” are a leading reason why we shouldn’t lift prohibition.

When they make this argument, Gil Kerlikowske and others will always mention the social costs of alcohol without including any supporting evidence to show that marijuana leads to similar results. The reason they don’t cite such evidence, of course, is because they don’t have any. Findings about the extremely low level of emergency room visits for marijuana compared to alcohol and other drugs simply drive another nail into such blissfully ignorant prohibitionist logic.

Oh, and if anyone tries to argue that this situation will somehow change drastically in a regulated marijuana market, consider this: More than 3 million Californians currently use marijuana (at least once) annually, yet fewer than 200 of them end up in the hospital for related reasons.

Kerlikowske and others shy away from stats like these, however, because they are further evidence of marijuana’s high margin of safety—and the insanity behind its prohibition.