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EMS News in Focus
by Arthur Hsieh

High drivers: How will marijuana laws impact EMS?

Like ethanol, there should be clear guidelines and standards to protect the public

By Arthur Hsieh

"Law enforcement officials wonder about whether the ability to buy or possess marijuana legally will bring about an increase of marijuana users on the roads."

Really? You think?

It's inevitable that EMS will see an increase of patients whose injuries or illness will be impacted by the use of legalized marijuana.

Don't get me wrong — I think it's been bad public policy to criminalize marijuana use. There hasn't been conclusive, definitive data to support its use as a gateway drug, or as a key influence in violence and other criminal activity.

Certainly there are health hazards, among them driving while under the influence.

Like ethanol, there should be clear guidelines and standards to protect the public. It'll be interesting to see the difference in driving arrests and trauma rates related to marijuana use between Washington state and Colorado, since they have developed their regulations differently.

Meanwhile, EMS professionals in those states should bone up on their knowledge of marijuana-related illnesses and side effects that could impact the routine care of their patients.

About the author

EMS1 Editorial Advisor Art Hsieh, MA, NREMT-P currently teaches at the Public Safety Training Center, Santa Rosa Junior College in the Emergency Care Program. Since 1982, Art has worked as a line medic and chief officer in the private, third service and fire-based EMS. He has directed both primary and EMS continuing education programs. Art is a textbook author, has presented at conferences nationwide, and continues to provide patient care at an EMS service in Northern California. Contact Art at
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