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Places with More Marijuana Dispensaries Have More Marijuana-Related Hospitalizations

In a first analysis of the impact of marijuana dispensary locations on health, researchers mapped California hospital discharge data that had a primary or secondary code for marijuana dependence or abuse to patients’ zip codes. Then they cross-referenced the data to the number of dispensaries in those zip codes.

Hospital marijuana codes increased from 17,469 in 2001 to 68,408 in 2012 in the state. More than 85 percent were coded as abuse rather than dependence. Nearly all (99.2 percent) were secondary codes, meaning patients were hospitalized for something other than marijuana (like someone hospitalized with internal injuries after crashing while driving under the influence of alcohol.)

“Each additional dispensary per square mile in a zip code was associated with a 6.8 percent increase in hospitalizations linked to marijuana abuse and dependence.” The density and location of dispensaries paralleled the density and location of liquor stores, which tend to be located in areas with lower household income and lower educational attainment.

Read Science Daily summary of the study here.