Epidemiology and Biostatistics Publications

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Molecular Psychiatry

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A major public health concern of cannabis legalization is that it may result in an increase in psychotic disorders. We examined changes in emergency department (ED) visits for cannabis-induced psychosis following the legalization and subsequent commercialization (removal of restrictions on retail stores and product types) of non-medical cannabis in Ontario, Canada (population of 14.3 million). We used health administrative data containing the cause of all ED visits to examine changes over three periods; 1) pre-legalization (January 2014–September 2018); 2) legalization with restrictions (October 2018 – February 2020); and 3) commercialization (March 2020 – September 2021). We considered subgroups stratified by age and sex and examined cocaine- and methamphetamine-induced psychosis ED visits as controls. During our study, there were 6300 ED visits for cannabis-induced psychosis. The restricted legalization period was not associated with changes in rates of ED visits for cannabis-induced psychosis relative to pre-legalization. The commercialization period was associated with an immediate increase in rates of ED visits for cannabis-induced psychosis (IRR 1.30, 95% CI 1.02–1.66) and no gradual monthly change; immediate increases were seen only for youth above (IRR 1.63, 1.27–2.08, ages 19–24) but not below (IRR 0.73 95%CI 0.42–1.28 ages, 15–18) the legal age of purchase, and similar for men and women. Commercialization was not associated with changes in rates of ED visits for cocaine- or methamphetamine-induced psychosis. This suggests that legalization with store and product restrictions does not increase ED visits for cannabis-induced psychosis. In contrast, cannabis commercialization may increase cannabis-induced psychosis presentations highlighting the importance of preventive measures in regions considering legalization.

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