Home Emerging Issues in Law Enforcement Marijuana is Legal in Colorado, So Why is There a Rise in Hospitalizations Caused by Synthetic Marijuana?

Marijuana is Legal in Colorado, So Why is There a Rise in Hospitalizations Caused by Synthetic Marijuana?

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Yesterday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a report that synthetic marijuana is believed to have sickened 221 people in Colorado during a month-long outbreak in August of this year. While no one died from this outbreak, this report is very troubling.

marijuana lawsWhy are people still using synthetic marijuana—which is ILLEGAL—when Colorado just LEGALIZED real marijuana? What is going on here?

My curiosity about this subject actually started in October after I attended an educational session about the legalization of marijuana during the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference.

During the presentation, the speaker gave all kinds of statistics about the rise in hospitalizations due to marijuana. I left that presentation surprised by the major increase of marijuana-related emergency room visits. Then I happened to sit next to a police chief from Colorado who told me that those hospital statistics were not for real marijuana overdoses (as suggested by the speaker), but rather caused by the use of synthetic marijuana.

Police and other officials in Colorado are still trying to figure out what is causing this upsurge in illegal, fake marijuana.

My best guess: Now that marijuana is legal, companies are likely testing their employees for the drug. However, these standard drug tests often do not test for synthetic properties. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy recently conducted a pilot study that found that drug tests often fail to detect the use of synthetic marijuana, according to this article in the Washington Post.

Because synthetic marijuana is not being tested for (and real marijuana is), people are turning to the dangerous, illegal and unregulated form of marijuana to get high. Does this surprise you? Who could have predicted this would be a consequence of legalizing marijuana?

What other factors do you think are contributing to the rise in hospitalization and, I assume, the use of synthetic marijuana, especially in a state where the real thing is legal?

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