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A new study has found that more people tend to avoid the dangers of illegal synthetic weed when they live in a cannabis-friendly state. Researchers found that in states where cannabis is legal, the number of synthetic marijuana users needing medical attention dropped significantly.
The study, published in Clinical Toxicology, associated legal, medical marijuana with a 13 percent drop in reported exposures to synthetic weed (they define exposure as synthetic weed poisoning cases reported to a national database). Overall, states with permissive cannabis policies saw 37 percent lower annual reported synthetic exposures compared to states with restrictive policies.
That’s especially good news, considering that a majority of those exposures resulted in the need for medical attention, and 61 cases in three years resulted in deaths.
People typically get synthetic weed as dried plant materials sprayed with acetone, embalming fluid or other solvents that contain man-made psychoactive substances.
The Journal of Clinical Pharmacology reports that there are numerous cases of patient harm and death in the U.S., Europe, and Australia from illicit, synthetic marijuana. Many people suffer what the journal called “psychological, neurological, cardiovascular, pulmonary, and renal adverse events.”
Researchers Used Poison System Data
To evaluate the impact of cannabis laws on the rate of reported exposure to synthetic cannabis, researchers in the new study looked at National Poison Data System (NPDS) data from 2016 to 2019. They then cross-referenced any synthetic poisoning reports with the cannabis laws and market status in the state where they occurred.
During that time, they found 7,600 exposures reported. Over time, synthetic exposures declined. A majority of the exposures – 64.8 percent – required medical attention.
The study concluded: “Adoption of permissive cannabis law was associated with significant reductions in reported synthetic cannabinoid exposures. More permissive cannabis law may have the unintended benefit of reducing both motivation and harms associated with use of synthetic cannabis products.”
Why Reducing Synthetic Weed Use is Important
Between 2010 and 2015, synthetic cannabis poisonings increased in the U.S., with more than 42,000 cases of toxic exposure reported between 2010 and 2015, according to a CNN report. The new study offers hope that the trend will reverse, at least in states with more permissive marijuana laws.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls the rise of synthetic marijuana, sold illegally to people who think they are buying regular cannabis, a “global problem.” Synthetic cannabis first appeared in Europe about 2005, arriving in the U.S. in 2008.
Some cases have had a widespread impact. In 2018, more than 100 people in the Midwest and Maryland became ill after using synthetic cannabis laced with rat poison. Symptoms included unexplained bruising, coughing up blood, and bleeding from the nose and gums.
The reduction in such cases found in the new study provides another argument for marijuana legalization to help combat the problems associated with the cannabis black market.