For years, Pueblo, Colorado had been looking for industries to revive its economy, and when recreational marijuana was legalized for retail sale in Colorado in 2014, many saw it as the answer.
Situated 100 miles south of Denver, with a population of around 160,000 people, Pueblo saw marijuana operations and dispensaries spring up quickly, employing around 2,000 people with wages from $12 to $15 an hour.
According to Sal Pace, County Commissioner, “The cannabis boom in Pueblo is real and sustainable, and we’re well positioned to be a national cultivation hub after federal legalization.” Naturally the city is excited. Pueblo’s eight cannabis retail stores are generating about $100,000 a month in taxes for the city to spend on pet projects. They’re even is exploring the idea of expanding the industry by allowing hospitality rooms for the consumption of cannabis.
Pueblo’s doctors are experiencing the bad side of legalization. Emergency room doctors say the deleterious effects of cannabis legalization far outstrip any benefit. Every day they are seeing patients with cannabinoid hyperemesis (CHS), a condition caused by daily long-tern use which leads to repeated, intense and overwhelming bouts of vomiting. THC and related chemicals in pot not only binds to molecules in the brain to cause a high, they also affect your digestive tract by changing the way the esophageal sphincter opens and closes to let food into the stomach.
Then there’s the psychosis. THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in today’s marijuana products, is now being extracted to reach a potency of more than 80%. The average potency of a joint in the 1990s was 4%.
According to ER doctor Brad Roberts, the patients he is seeing have no previous psychiatric history and test positive only for THC. “There is no PCP – there are no amphetamines – there is no alcohol. The only thing that comes up positive is cannabinoids. And they’ll admit that they did dabs right before it happened.” Dr. Roberts says these kids are 17, 18, 19 – and very violent.
Dabs is a method of taking concentrated THC, usually through a vaping device or a glass rig. The concentrate is most commonly made by using butane to extract THC from the cannabis plant, and then it’s further processed to strip the butane out. Other forms of butane hash oil include waxes, shatters, and budders—which are similar, but have different textures.
Dr. Roberts said that recently, a teenager “yelling incoherently” was brought into the ER with three police officers, five EMS personnel, and three security staff holding him down. He had been arrested running along the middle of the street waving a metal rod at cars. He later admitted that he had been smoking concentrated cannabis waxes. Only cannabis showed up on his drug screen.
And it’s not just marijuana that is causing havoc in Pueblo. Since legalization Pueblo has seen an increase in all drug use. Methamphetamine use is up 143%, opiates are up by 10%, and cannabis is up by 57% according to data from the ER drug screens over the past seven years. When you pump a community full of drugs, you’re going to have to expect everything that’s associated with them – crime, addiction, etc.
Two children younger than 14 ended up in Dr. Randall’s ER after each had ingested half of a candy bar that contained 500 mg of THC that they obtained from a buyer via Snapchat.
The cost of dealing with their case load of marijuana related hyperemesis and psychosis is around $1.8 million a year which hardly affects the city of Pueblo because the majority of their ER patients are on Medicaid which means taxpayers are subsidizing the medical cost.
“We’re losing this generation. What I see … is the kids either smoke themselves, or they become the parents’ caretaker, they take care of their parents who are smoking—using drugs and drinking. And I don’t know which is sadder—you have an 8 year old that’s giving you the medical history of the parent or the kid’s using.” Dr. Karen Randall
Source: The True Cost of Marijuana: A Colorado Town That Went All-In by Charlotte Cuthbertson, Epoch Times; Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome, Cedars Sinai; Stoners Alert and A Joint A Day Doesn’t Keep The Doctor Away, Franklin County VA Patriots