First day of legal cannabis had ‘little impact’ on Alberta hospitals

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Health care concerns from legalized marijuana
WATCH ABOVE: While hospitals say they're not overly worried about the health effects of legalized marijuana, they do have some concerns. Linda Aylesworth reports – Oct 17, 2018

Thousands of Albertans lined up, both in person and online, to buy pot on the first day marijuana was legal in Canada, but Alberta Health Services said the legalization of cannabis had little impact on AHS facilities and services.

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about marijuana and your health

On Wednesday, the Health Link phone line took 19 cannabis-related calls. The daily average of 10.

AHS said the Poison and Drug Info Service received two cannabis-related calls.

AHS said emergency departments saw little to no cannabis-related activity: there were none at the ER’s in Medicine Hat, Red Deer, Grande Prairie or Fort McMurray, and only a small numbers in Lethbridge, Calgary and Edmonton.

The health authority said on average, Alberta emergency departments see between 20 and 50 pot-related cases every month — which is a drop in the bucket compared to the 40,000 to 50,000 overall ER visits per month.

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AHS said it hasn’t scheduled more staff in the coming weeks, but will keep an eye on patient numbers.

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Some health care providers believe there will be an uptick in visits once edibles become legal.

The prediction, according to Vancouver ER physician Dr. Joseph Finkler, comes after reviewing statistics out of U.S. hospitals in states where the sale of the drug has been legal for several years.

READ MORE: Vancouver ER doctor says edibles remain a concern as Canada legalizes cannabis

Emergency departments in Colorado, the first American state to legalize the sale of marijuana four years ago, found that those most at risk of needing emergency services were those new to the recreational use of the drug.

Those who ingested edible cannabis products, which are slower to kick-in than cannabis when inhaled, were also particularly at risk, they found.

When too much cannabis is ingested, panic attack-like symptoms can ensue, including a racing heart, palpitations, sweating, tremors and nausea.

Edible cannabis won’t be legally available for sale in Canada until next year.

READ MORE: Where can I buy pot? A coast-to-coast guide for marijuana legalization day

Dozens of legal pot shops opened across the country Wednesday, including 19 in Alberta — 12 of which are in the Edmonton region.

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Of the dozen stores, six are in Edmonton, two are in Fort Saskatchewan, and Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Devon and St. Albert each have one. Albertans can also can order marijuana products through the government-run Alberta Cannabis website.

READ MORE: Edmonton marijuana enthusiasts line up at cannabis stores on legalization day

The AGLC said within the first hour of pot going on sale at midnight Wednesday, the website had more than 6,400 unique visits and 1,040 orders were placed.

By 3:30 p.m., there were 28,343 registered users and about 8,300 online pot purchases had been made. That translates to about $730,000 worth of products, the AGLC said.

As Albertans light their celebratory joints, it’s important to know where you can and can’t toke up. Every municipality across the province has adopted its own set of consumption rules and as a result, they are different depending on which city or town you visit.

READ MORE: A look at cannabis consumption bylaws in Alberta cities and towns

— With files from Linda Aylesworth, Global News

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