‘Marijuana Is Not Harmless’: Weld County Health Dept. Launches New Campaign

WELD COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – The Weld County Health Department is raising awareness about the health impacts of marijuana use across Colorado. Health officials announced a new campaign Thursday called “Marijuana is Not Harmless.”

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“We acknowledge Colorado voters legalized recreational marijuana,” said Mark E. Wallace, MD, MPH, Executive Director of the Weld County Health Department. “However, the general public, and especially youth, need to understand that marijuana use is not harmless. There are consequences to driving impaired and using frequent amounts of marijuana.”

A 2019 report from the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (RMHIDTA) found annual emergency room visits in Colorado related to marijuana have increased 54 percent since 2013. The yearly number of hospitalizations increased 101 percent.

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The report also found traffic deaths involving drivers who tested positive for marijuana has more than doubled since Colorado voters legalized marijuana in 2012. The figure amounts to three traffic deaths every three days.

The Weld County “Marijuana is Not Harmless” campaign is using social media to reach marijuana users along with outdoor billboard ads. Based on 2018 data from the Colorado Department of Revenue, there are over 520 recreational marijuana dispensaries, which is more than twice the number of statewide Starbucks.

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Health officials cite statistics from a drug use fact sheet from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. It found that compared to those who don’t use marijuana, people who frequently use marijuana report lower life satisfaction, poorer mental health, more relationship problems, and less academic and career success.

According to RMHIDTA, currently 64 percent of local jurisdictions in Colorado have banned medical and recreational marijuana businesses. Adult marijuana use in Colorado is 96 percent higher than the national average; and the past month usage for Colorado youth ages 12 and older is 78 percent higher than the national average.