April 20, 2017 7:00 am
Updated: April 20, 2017 1:49 pm

The highs and lows of pot legalization

WATCH ABOVE: A CBS news investigation found that recreational marijuana sales are raising tens of millions of dollars in taxes in states that have legalized it, funding everything from roads, public buildings to scholarships.

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Canada is set to legalize marijuana by July 2018, becoming only the second country to do so — Uruguay was the first. Some U.S. states have also blazed the pot legalization trail.

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Here’s a look at what worked, what didn’t and what trends cropped up following full marijuana legalization.

Marijuana tourism 

Some U.S. states have capitalized on visitors eager to partake in legal pot. In Colorado, it’s been called the “green rush,” with tour operators and businesses eager to cash in.”Imagine visiting Napa Valley — but with weed instead of wine,” said a New York Times article exploring the state’s billion-dollar industry.

READ MORE: Here’s how you will buy pot once it’s legalized in Canada

There are hours-long dispensary and grow operation tours, cannabis cooking classes, painting nights where you swap the wine for a joint, and glass-blowing shops where you can make your own pipe.

The problem is, tourists don’t always know their limits.

“What we didn’t expect is that the (hospitalization) rates among out-of-state visitors would increase so dramatically,” Dr. Andrew Monte, a toxicologist and emergency-room physician at the University of Colorado Hospital told Global News last year.

Meanwhile, hospital visits for locals in Colorado didn’t significantly change following legalization in the state.

Watch what you eat

Edibles are a complicated aspect to marijuana legalization. It’s not just pot brownies anymore — cannabis can be consumed in candy and gummy form, and also in savoury soups and shepherds pie.

The risk of accidental consumption by children is a real concern. Research shows that emergency room visits for accidental marijuana consumption by children doubled in Colorado following legalization.

READ MORE: Munchable pot goodies could pose a risk to children

About half of the cases involved edibles.

“Ingestion of edible products continues to be a major source of marijuana exposures in children and poses a unique problem because no other drug is infused into a palatable and appetizing form,” the study authors noted.

READ MORE: Candy at birthday party that sent 19 to hospital likely edible marijuana

Edibles probably won’t be available for sale in Canada when legalization comes through next year — federal regulations for their sale are unlikely to yet be in place. But the proposed federal guidelines said Canadians will be free to make edibles themselves at home.

Roughly 2.8 million marijuana edibles are sold annually in Colorado.

Seniors, not youth, light up 

The Liberals have taken a hard line on marijuana legalization, and said the new pot laws will control the drug and keep it out of the hands of Canadian youth.

However, data has shown that marijuana usage among youth largely stayed the same following legalization in U.S. states.

In Washington, researchers noted a roughly 3 per cent increase in use among teenagers. Teen uptake in Colorado was also less-than-notable.

“We had a lot of fears that we would see a real spike in teenage use,” Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper told Global News earlier this month.

“And we haven’t seen a spike in teenage use or young people’s consumption.”

However, they have seen a “slight increase among senior citizens,” said Hickenlooper.

WATCH: As legal pot looms, ‘hopefully you guys will learn from our mistakes’: Colorado governor

Beer sales slide

When people can get their hands on pot without a hassle it can result in lower consumption of other drugs and alcohol.

The legal use of medical marijuana was linked to drop in opioid-related hospital visits in several American states.

Analysis of hospital administrative records from 28 states showed that medical marijuana legalization coincided with a 23 per cent drop in hospitalizations for opioid dependence or abuse. Hospitalization for opioid overdoses dropped 13 per cent.

Meanwhile, medical marijuana legalization had no impact on marijuana-related hospitalizations.

Legal marijuana has also been linked to a modest slump in beer sales in some states.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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