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Study: Marijuana Dispensaries Linked To Hospital Stays

SACRAMENTO (CBS Sacramento) - California neighborhoods with medical marijuana dispensaries may also see more hospitalizations, reports LiveScience.

While maybe not exactly groundbreaking, the new study can help health officials and public policy-makers.

"As marijuana is approved for medical or recreational use, we need to carefully consider where we allow dispensaries to be placed," said lead researcher Christina Mair, an assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.

The researchers counted the number of dispensaries per square mile within certain California ZIP codes in 2012. They found that 27 percent of ZIP codes had at least one dispensary, with the number ranging from zero to 40.

They collected data from California hospitals from 2001 to 2012, looking for cases that included at least one overnight stay and involved either marijuana dependence or abuse.

Each pot shop was linked to a 6.8 percent increase in the number of marijuana-related hospitalizations, according to the study.

"Our study indicates that there are real problems associated with a higher density of marijuana dispensaries in neighborhoods," Mair explained.

But the scientists were quick to point out they did not find that more dispensaries caused the increase in hospitalizations.

"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," Mair noted. "It could be a combination of both factors."

The study is published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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