Cannabis legalization may lead to increased cannabis-related hospitalizations

1. This quantitative study of hospital discharge summaries from Quebec, Canada found that cannabis-related hospitalizations were increased in boys aged 10-14 after legalization.

2. Cannabis legalization did not lead to an increase in hospitalization rates for either gender in those aged 15-19 after legalization.

Evidence Rating Level: 2 (Good)

In recent years, the regulation and legalization of cannabis has been a hotly debated topic. In Canada, recreational cannabis use was legalized on October 17, 2018. Because cannabis may be particularly harmful to youth, it is important to measure the effects of cannabis legalization on hospitalization rates. This cross-sectional quantitative study compared cannabis-related hospitalizations in Quebec, Canada one year prior to legalization (October 17, 2017 to March 31, 2018), to one year after legalization (October 17, 2018 to March 31, 2019) using hospital discharge summaries. Two control groups were included to minimize seasonal confounding. All cannabis-related hospitalizations in Quebec before March 31, 2019 were recorded.

During this study period, 12,858 cannabis-related hospitalizations were identified. The researchers found that cannabis-related hospitalization rates decreased or were not significantly different before and after legalization for most age groups, except in young males (though rate ratios were not statistically significant in this subgroup). The hospitalization rate for boys aged 10-14 increased significantly after legalization; most of these hospital stays were due to mental or behavioural harm rather than poisoning. Limitations of this study include its focus on one province within Canada (Quebec) which may have limited generalizability to other countries. Furthermore, cannabis use may have been underreported prior to legalization. Despite these limitations, this study’s findings suggest rates of cannabis-related hospitalization increased in males under the age of 15 after legalization. This study may hold value in determining the effects of cannabis legalization as well as those most at risk for hospitalization.

Click to read the study in Journal of Addiction Medicine

Image: PD

©2021 2 Minute Medicine, Inc. All rights reserved. No works may be reproduced without expressed written consent from 2 Minute Medicine, Inc. Inquire about licensing here. No article should be construed as medical advice and is not intended as such by the authors or by 2 Minute Medicine, Inc.