Jan 5, 2023 - News

Cases of Colorado toddlers accidentally ingesting THC soar

Reported marijuana exposures in Colorado, by select age groups
Data: Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Safety; Note: Exposures are defined as any consumption of marijuana into the body and are reported by public or healthcare professionals; Chart: Madison Dong/Axios Visuals

The number of young children accidentally eating their caretakers' cannabis has risen dramatically in Colorado and nationwide, new research shows.

Why it matters: State lawmakers have taken steps to make marijuana products less visually appealing to children — but the measures haven't kept kids from mistaking edibles as sweet treats.

Driving the news: From 2017 to 2021, the highest share of reported marijuana exposures in Colorado — nearly half — were among kids 5 and under, Rocky Mountain Poison & Drug Safety data shows.

  • Pediatric cannabis exposures for that age group jumped 170%, to 151 in 2021 from 56 in 2017.

The big picture: Incidents of children younger than 6 unintentionally eating cannabis edibles nationwide skyrocketed 1,375% in five years, with many cases requiring hospitalization, a study published Tuesday in the journal Pediatrics found.

  • Nationwide, reports of children accidentally eating edibles soared to 3,054 cases in 2021 compared to 207 in 2017, per the study of national poison control data.
  • Though the case count remains relatively small, the numbers are growing at a rapid clip as more states legalize recreational marijuana.

What's happening: Edible pot products come in colorful packages often resembling common candy, like chocolates and sour gummies — which can entice kids who come across them without understanding their dangers.

What they're saying: "There are some patients that actually have airway obstruction and need to be in the ICU or put on a ventilator," Andrew Monte, an emergency medicine doctor at University of Colorado hospital, told NPR.

  • Monte said his department sees cases of children consuming cannabis multiple times a month.

Context: Colorado law requires child-resistance packaging for all edibles, and bans products shaped like animals, fruit or people, as well as the words "candy" or "candies" on cannabis products.

  • State statute also bars pot packages from using cartoon characters or other images that could appeal to kids and requires recreational marijuana edibles be stamped with a diamond logo that reads "! THC."

What to watch: As access to cannabis candies become increasingly available across the country, officials say cases of kids consuming edibles could rise.

  • Researchers in the Pediatrics study are calling for stricter regulations on the potency of pot packaging and for edibles to be placed in opaque, child-resistant packaging.

Be smart: Health experts say caregivers who suspect their child has eaten a marijuana edible should be taken to a doctor as soon as possible.

  • Parents should also treat their pot like they would prescription medicine — and keep it out of reach and in child-proof containers.

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