US Study: Increase in Kids Sickened by Marijuana Edibles

According to a study published Tuesday in the journal Pediatrics, the number of children younger than six accidentally ingesting cannabis edibles rose 14% as recreational marijuana use became legal and has grown in popularity in the US over the last five years.

US Study: Increase in Kids Sickened by Marijuana Edibles
Image credit: Getty Images [via Forbes]

Facts

  • According to a study published Tuesday in the journal Pediatrics, the number of children younger than six accidentally ingesting cannabis edibles rose 14% as recreational marijuana use became legal and has grown in popularity in the US over the last five years.
  • A retrospective analysis of the National Poison Data System data reveals that more than 7K confirmed cases of kids eating marijuana edibles were reported between 2017 and 2021 — up from about 200 in 2017 to over 3K in 2021.
  • In addition, the researchers found that 22.7% of the children inadvertently consuming cannabis-laced products — such as candies, chocolate, and cookies — were hospitalized. More than half of the critical cases were young children aged two and three, and there were no deaths.
  • Furthermore, nearly 8% of children required critical care unit admissions, 15% were admitted to non-critical care units, and over a third were treated and released from the emergency room. Hospitalizations jumped during the last two years of the study, coinciding with the pandemic, the researchers noticed.
  • Noting that 97.1% of children found the edibles at home, lead author Dr. Marit Tweet called for greater vigilance by parents and making recreational marijuana less appealing and accessible to children.
  • Though marijuana has yet to be legalized at the federal level, 37 US states allow the medical use of marijuana, while 21 states and Washington D.C. have begun to regulate its adult recreational use.

Sources: Forbes, Associated Press, Publications AAP, CTV, Washington Post, and Cnet.

Narratives

  • Narrative A, as provided by Stat. Cannabis exposure can be dangerous and life-threatening for young children, which is why urgent local, state, and federal action is required to stop unregulated sellers and copycat products from reaching American households. Kids under six years old can't read the health warnings on pot-laced edibles in the first place. Therefore, by shifting to plain packaging of marijuana products, regulators can reduce their appeal and protect children from accidental ingestion.
  • Narrative B, as provided by NY Times. While the issue of kids accidentally ingesting cannabis edibles does need to be addressed, a thoughtful, multi-pronged approach is needed. Federal narcotics regulation has barely changed since the 1970s. Regulators can enhance safety for children while loosening the drug classifications that have long punished law-abiding adults. This issue doesn't show that cannabis is dangerous but that regulators must catch up to the times.

Predictions