Zygowicz and Wayne Discuss EMS Implications of Marijuana Legalization at EMS Today 2017

In their EMS Today 2017 presentation, Rocky Mountain High: Legalization of Marijuana and its EMS Implications, Marvin Wayne, MD, FACEP, FAAEM, FAHA, and Division Chief Wayne M. Zygowicz, MA, EFO, EMT-P, shared lessons learned from two states that were at the epicenter of the marijuana legalization movement, Washington and Colorado. Soon, EMS and public safety agencies in four other states that recently legalized recreational marijuana, will also learn to cope with the after-effects of this budding “green industry.” 

This session provided an overview of the history and economics of the marijuana industry. It highlighted a recently released Colorado Department of Health research study that examined the impact of legalization of marijuana on public safety, public health, youth and other related matters. The discussion reviewed the clinical effects of using marijuana, new methods of ingesting it, and the care and treatment of overdose. Further, the testing and labeling of marijuana infused products showed how easily users could overdose on the marijuana consumables if they don’t examine (read) the product label.  

The presentation highlighted common hazards faced by first responders resulting from cultivation and extraction of marijuana in residential areas. Real life examples were used to emphasize the risks to responders.

The session concluded with a discussion on the use of marijuana for medical reasons and the therapeutic qualities of the drug used to treat various medical conditions.  

“The legalization of marijuana for recreational use unleashed a new billion dollar industry in this country and it may be coming to your state in the very near future,” said Zygowicz. “Public safety agencies must review the risks associated with the green industry and be prepared to address the public safety concerns that go along with recreational use in order to keep the public and first responders safe. Be prepared!”

“Just as when the re-legalization of alcohol occurred, after prohibition, there have been many predicted and unexpected consequences of legalization of pot” stated Dr. Wayne. “Not the least of these is the conflict between State and Federal legislation. This has led to the ‘greening’ of the product. Not just what is used, but the money it generates. With this legal conflict, few banks will hold these funds, credit cards have been unusable, and this availability of cash serves as a target for theft.”

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