“The legalization of recreational marijuana in almost a dozen states shows how America’s attitude toward the drug may be changing. But the drug has changed too: Newly developed strains of marijuana are far stronger than what people were smoking in the past, leading to unintended consequences like addiction and marijuana toxicity.
“Typically, young children around the age of 2 are getting into caregivers’ — whether it’s parents’, grandparents’, babysitters’ — marijuana products, often edible products,” said Dr. Sam Wang.
Wang’s findings from Colorado’s Children’s Hospital are included in a new nationwide study that showed a 27% increase in children and teenagers getting emergency treatment for marijuana toxicity. Seventy percent of the cases occurred in states with legalized marijuana.
An exponential increase in marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient, THC, is at the center of the crisis. THC content has spiked from 3.7% to more than 20% — and some cannabis concentrates contain close to 100% THC.
Twenty-year-old Colton said that his addiction to marijuana began when the drug was legalized five years ago while he was attending high school in Colorado.
States that legalized recreational marijuana has generated almost $3 billion in tax revenue since 2014 when Colorado first started sales.
“The state was highly focused on how much tax revenue it could generate from marijuana sales,” Brandt said. “Nobody really spent a lot of time thinking about, well, how this going to impact some of the younger community?”
For Brandt, the impact became clear when Colton was failing in college, couldn’t quit cannabis and asked to go to rehab.