Cannabis-Involved Emergency Department Visits Among Persons Aged <25 Years Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic

United States, 2019-2022

Douglas R. Roehler, PhD; Herschel Smith IV, MPH; Lakshmi Radhakrishnan, MPH; Kristin M. Holland, PhD; Abigail L. Gates, MSPH; Alana M. Vivolo-Kantor, PhD; Brooke E. Hoots, PhD


Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 2023;72(28):758-765. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


To understand trends in U.S. cannabis-involved emergency department (ED) visits (i.e., those for which cannabis use was documented in the chief complaint or a discharge diagnosis) among young persons aged <25 years during the COVID-19 pandemic, CDC used National Syndromic Surveillance Program data to examine changes in ED visits during 2019–2022. Mean weekly cannabis-involved ED visits among all young persons were higher during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, 2021, and 2022, compared with corresponding periods in 2019. Large increases in cannabis-involved ED visits throughout the COVID-19 pandemic compared with prepandemic surveillance periods in 2019 were identified among persons aged ≤10 years. ED visit rates among children and adolescents aged 11–14 years did not differ by sex until the first half of the 2020–21 school year (2020, weeks 37–53), when ED visit rates among females surpassed those among males. Improving clinicians' awareness of rising cannabis-involved ED visits might aid in early diagnosis of cannabis intoxication among young persons. Further, increasing adults' knowledge regarding safe cannabis storage practices, strengthening youths' coping and problem-solving skills through evidence-based prevention programs, and modifying cannabis packaging to decrease appeal to youths might help prevent intentional and unintentional cannabis use.


Approximately 18.7% of U.S. persons aged ≥12 years used cannabis in 2021.* Expansion of legalization of medical and nonmedical cannabis has contributed to increased availability and use of cannabis by adults,[1] and Monitoring the Future data show that youth's perception of the risk of cannabis use has declined.§ The COVID-19 pandemic has been associated with increases in substance use for some youths;[2] however, cannabis-involved emergency department (ED) visits began increasing statistically significantly several years before the start of the pandemic among all age groups except ages 15–24 years.[3]