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Emergency department visits during the 4/20 cannabis celebration


Background Annual ‘4/20’ cannabis festivals occur around the world on April 20 and often feature synchronised consumption of cannabis at 4:20 pm. The relationship between these events and demand for emergency medical services has not been systematically studied.

Methods We conducted a population-based retrospective cohort study in Vancouver, Canada, using 10 consecutive years of data (2009–2018) from six regional hospitals. The number of emergency department (ED) visits between 4:20 pm and 11:59 pm on April 20 were compared with the number of visits during identical time intervals on control days 1 week earlier and 1 week later (ie, April 13 and April 27) using negative binomial regression.

Results A total of 3468 ED visits occurred on April 20 and 6524 ED visits occurred on control days. A non-significant increase in all-cause ED visits was observed on April 20 (adjusted relative risk: 1.06; 95% CI 1.00 to 1.12). April 20 was associated with a significant increase in ED visits among prespecified subgroups including a 5-fold increase in visits for substance misuse and a 10-fold increase in visits for intoxication. The hospital closest to the festival site experienced a clinically and statistically significant 17% (95% CI 5.1% to 29.6%) relative increase in ED visits on April 20 compared with control days.

Interpretation Substance use at annual ‘4/20’ festivals may be associated with an increase in ED visits among key subgroups and at nearby hospitals. These findings may inform harm reduction initiatives and festival medical care service planning.

  • emergency care systems
  • emergency department
  • mass gathering medicine
  • drug abuse
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