May 29, 2024 - News

Weed-related pediatric hospital visits in Virginia declined after new law

Illustration of a bag pouring out gummies in the shape of tiny caution signs.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

The number of children ending up in Virginia emergency rooms due to exposure to cannabis sharply declined in the second half of last year, according to a new report.

Why it matters: The drop in visits correlates with a state law that went in effect last July that banned the sale of intoxicating THC products like Delta-8 and required clear labeling on edible hemp products that resemble candy.

State of play: Between the first and last half of 2023, Virginia hospitals saw a 21.5% decline in the number of children visiting the emergency department due to marijuana-related issues.

  • That's according to an analysis if of statewide hospital data by Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association.
  • The association attributed the drop to the bipartisan legislation that went into effect last year that requires any hemp products for sale in Virginia to contain 25 times more CBD than THC.

Zoom out: ER visits involving children and cannabis ingestion increased everywhere during the pandemic, according to a CDC report, per NBC News.

  • Teens and young adults — people 15 to 24 — accounted for 90% of cannabis-related ER visits nationwide between 2019 and 2022 and saw an 8% increase in ER visits over pre-pandemic averages.
  • Marijuana-driven hospital trips for young kids — those 10 and under — jumped by 214% for the same period.

Zoom in: In Virginia, there were 8,401 such visits involving kids 0-18 between 2020-2023, VHHA found.

  • At its peak, which came at the end of 2022 and in early 2023, ERs in the state were seeing more than 700 visits a quarter of minors experiencing adverse reactions to cannabis products.
  • In the last two quarters of last year, ERs were seeing around 550 cannabis-related pediatric visits.

What we're watching: In response to the pediatric ER trends, last month, Virginia Department of Health launched a "special surveillance system" requiring health care providers to start reporting incidents of THC "adverse events" involving children.

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