In California, neighborhoods with more dispensaries send more people to hospitals for marijuana-related issues, a new study has found.

No big surprise. But we found some flaws.

The University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health looked at hospitalizations involving “marijuana dependence or abuse” from 2001 to 2012 in California and matched the data with patients’ zip codes, according to a statement from the school.

The researchers found that such hospitalizations increased from 17,469 to 68,408 during that time. And by mapping the data, they say they discovered that “each additional dispensary per square mile in a ZIP code was associated with a 6.8 percent increase in the number of hospitalizations linked to marijuana abuse and dependence.”

However, “It’s unclear if the marijuana dispensaries are simply locating in neighborhoods that tend to be more disadvantaged and already have underlying problems with marijuana abuse, or if the presence of the dispensaries is causing an increase in abuse and hospitalizations,” said lead author Christina Mair.

The university says that the areas with more marijuana dispensaries also “parallel precedent in the location of liquor stores.”

And one flaw in the study is that dispensaries in California were still few and far between in 2001. It wasn’t until the mid-’00s that their presence started to explode. Studying anything before that time seems moot to us.

We also know that pot-related problems that would send you to a hospital are pretty rare. This study says it looked at admissions that involved at least an overnight stay. For weed? Maybe there were other drugs involved?

About The Author


Raul Duke has been working as a journalist in Southern California for two decades. The medical marijuana juggernaut is one of his many beats. He’s a longtime Westside resident who needs to renew his doctor’s recommendation soon. If you have news tips, reach out:

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