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What Are the Costs Associated with Marijuana Legalization?

  • Sep 01, 2014

While the marijuana industry does project billions of dollars streaming into the economy through tax revenues, pols and pundits alike fail to attempt to calculate cost load (Fairchild, 2013). Here are some important things we must consider:

A federal report on workplace drug testing by SAMHSA states that employees using marijuana cause 55 percent more accidents than those who do not, and positive drug tests showing THC in the employee's system verifies 85 percent more on-the-job injuries by marijuana users (Autry, 1998). This same report lists increased absenteeism and loss of work productivity as additional costs to the U.S. employer. While the National Drug Intelligence Center reports that substance abuse costs this country upwards of $193 billion each year, these costs are limited in scope and do not include the costs of associated destructive behaviors, such as child abuse or domestic violence (National Drug Intelligence Center, 2011).

Regardless of what the commercialization proponents say in paid advertising campaigns, marijuana does produce a dependence that requires addiction recovery and treatment. Data sets from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health from 2012 show admissions to addiction treatment facilities document marijuana as the second-highest reason for treatment--directly behind alcohol (NSDUH, 2014). The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids states that 23.5 million Americans are addicted to alcohol and drugs, which amounts to one in every 10 people over the age of 12 (Join Together, 2010). The financial burden of addiction and recovery treatment has yet to be fully addressed in efforts for national health care reform, but one thing we do know is that costs are staggeringly out of control.

According to an article in Annals of Emergency Medicine, those states that began allowing marijuana for medical use before 2005 saw calls to poison control centers for children accidentally exposed to marijuana triple. In states that have not permitted marijuana for medical use, there were no incidents (Wang, 2014). In Colorado, where recreational marijuana has been permitted, cases of child poisonings have risen significantly with at least two cases of small children requiring intubation to continue breathing. Cannabis-related emergency hospital admission rates overall have been rising sharply in the United States, according to the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), which shows emergency department admissions increasing from 16,251 in 1991 to over 461,028 in 2012 (SAMHSA, 2013). Marijuana-related admissions to hospital emergency rooms account for more than all other drugs combined. While we hear repeatedly that marijuana is "safe," we desperately need a definition of what entails "safety" when emergency rooms are burdened with marijuana-related health issues.

This article originally appeared in the September 2014 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

Source : https://ohsonline.com/Articles/2014/09/01/Marijuana-Legalization.aspx?Page=3

What Are the Costs Associated with Marijuana Legalization?
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