A just-published UC San Diego study says that senior citizen visits to the emergency room for cannabis-related reasons in California have increased by more than 1800% since 2003.

There has been a funny footnote to California's 2016 legalization of recreational marijuana use (which did not actually take effect until January 1, 2018): the fastest-growing cannabis use demographic has been senior citizens. But that funny footnote has also come with an unintended side effect, as NBC San Diego reports on a new study out of UC San Diego that notes California seniors have had to go to the emergency room over cannabis side effects at exponentially higher (heh) rates than they have in the past.

That finding comes from a study just published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, assessing California emergency room visits between 2005 and 2019.

“The cannabis-related [emergency room] visit rate increased significantly for adults aged ≥65 and all subgroups,” the study concludes. “The overall rate increased from 20.7 per 100,000 visits in 2005 to 395.0 per 100,000 ED visits in 2019, a 1804% relative increase.”

That study doesn’t actually detail any injuries, just emergency room visits. But still, even if these are merely episodes of paranoia or just plain being “too high,” people visiting the emergency for these reasons are still using hospital resources that could be going to other emergencies. And researchers suspect one driving force is that the marijuana these days is way stronger than it was in the 1960s, man.

“I do see a lot of older adults who are overly confident, saying they know how to handle it,” Dr. Benjamin Han of the UC San Diego School of Medicine Division of Geriatrics, Gerontology, and Palliative Care says in the study’s press release. “Yet as they have gotten older, their bodies are more sensitive, and the concentrations are very different from what they may have tried when they were younger.”

But beyond the headline, the study has also found the increase has tapered off over the last five years. “The study found while emergency department visits increased sharply between 2013 and 2017, they leveled off in 2017 after the implementation of Proposition 64,” the UCSD release notes.

And since most seniors use cannabis as an anxiety, pain, or sleep medication, we’ll note that their using marijuana for those purposes is still a hell of lot better than jacking them up on opioids.

Related: Senior Citizens Hospitalized After Eating Pot Brownies at Funeral [SFist]

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