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Legalization of Cannabis Resulted in Problems for Older Canadians

After Canada's legalization of cannabis edibles, older people made many more emergency department visits for overdose.

In 2020, Canada legalized the sale of edible cannabis products. Researchers wondered about the impact of legalization on older adults.

Legalization and Emergency Department Visits:

To find out they analyzed data from the Ontario Ministry of Health on emergency visits (JAMA Internal Medicine, May 20, 2024). They reviewed three distinct time frames: prior to legalization, during the initial legalization period and following legalization of edibles.

Over the eight-year period, they found that there were more than 2,000 emergency visits for cannabis poisoning among people 65 and older. Rates of cannabis-related emergencies in this age group were significantly higher in the later time period. Once edible cannabis products were legalized, emergency visits tripled. Symptoms of intoxication include hallucinations, dizziness, problems with balance, nausea and confusion.

Undoubtedly, some older people may have been deliberately treating themselves and miscalculated the dose. In other cases, cannabis ingestion might have been unintentional. In such situations, older people may have consumed cannabis products such as gummies or brownies belonging to a friend or family member. They could have mistaken these cannabis edibles for ordinary treats.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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  • Stall NM et al, "Edible cannabis legalization and cannabis poisonings in older adults." JAMA Internal Medicine, May 20, 2024. DOI: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2024.1331
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