Almost 40 cannabis “overdose” victims treated at St Paul’s during 420 in Vancouver


Sunset Beach was shrouded in smoke at Vancouver’s annual 4/20 gathering.
Photograph By DAN TOULGOET

This weekend the Vancouver Police Department sent out a media release saying that emergency services were “ON HIGH ALERT” (yes, an all caps weed pun care of the VPD) during the annual 420 protest.

Beyond the pun they noted that police, fire, ambulance and Park Board staff were “busy managing the crowd at Sunset Beach”. Then they broke down some numbers:

– 40,000 people attended
– 482 vendors
– 23 medical emergencies
– 10 overdose calls, 8 of which were taken to hospital

St Paul’s hospital let us know that they actually had “almost 40” people admitted for cannabis overdoses that day. Not all got there by way of ambulance and while they can’t say for sure that all were attendees of the protest “a strong correlation” could be made. The patients spent an average of 2 hours in emergency and none of them were admitted into a bed overnight.

4 were under 18 years of age, which is apparently a “fairly low” number when it comes to the overall number.

You’re not alone if you’re thinking “Cannabis overdoses? Is that a thing?”. We reached out to BC Emergency Health Services for clarity.

A cannabis “overdose” is officially considered a “poisoning”. Most of the ones St Paul’s treated were a result of people not properly dosing their edibles. They’re recorded as “complications from ingesting” by BCEHS.

Symptoms include rapid heart rate, hallucinations, mental confusion, panic attacks and extreme paranoia. Basically just getting too stoned, according to one enthusiast I interviewed for this piece.

The bottom line in terms of the health of Vancouverites and their responsible cannabis use is that it appears to be getting better.

St Paul’s tells us that the amount of “overdose” patients that came in on 4/20 when edibles really flooded the market a couple of years ago was 65, well below this year’s “almost 40”.

While it’s hard to nail that down as a trend, it appears to be a positive sign. And what happens after legalization in Canada remains to be seen, but we appear to be on a good track.

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Bob founded Vancouver Is Awesome in 2008. He heads up the publication as our Publisher and Editor-In-Chief.