Accidental ingestion of marijuana edibles in children can be traced to "relaxed" pot laws

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Looser legislation when it comes to marijuana has been linked to a negative trend in Colorado: More and more young children are being treated for accidental ingestion of pot-laced edibles, like cookies, brownies or candies.

A study conducted by researchers at Children's Hospital Colorado and the University of Colorado School of Medicine found that the number of these incidences spiked dramatically after the modification of Colorado's drug laws which began in 2009.

Cases of unintentional ingestion

Researchers analyzed data on 1,378 patients under the age of 12, finding that the number of children who had been treated for accidental marijuana exposure in emergency room settings went from zero to 14 after Sept. 30, 2009.

Children who had ingested the drug showed signs of extreme sleepiness, respiratory problems and difficulty in walking or performing simple tasks. Most of them, the researchers note, underwent a variety of expensive tests before receiving a diagnosis.

"Before the marijuana boom these kinds of edibles were not mass-produced and the amount of THC ingested was somewhat limited, but now we are seeing much higher strength marijuana," George Wang, MD, lead author of the study, said in a statement.

Need for child-resistant packaging

Wang noted that the key to preventing accidental exposure is child-resistant packaging. He and his colleague Michael Kosnett, a medical toxicologist and associate clinical professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, recently went before a state advisory panel to recommend that marijuana edibles be packaged in child-resistant materials.

"We know that children will act quickly to ingest even unpalatable items like household cleaners, pills and capsules," Kosnett said. "The allure of these marijuana edibles, which taste and look like simple sweets, makes them especially risky."

No other states have developed these kinds of packaging laws, including those that have legalized recreational marijuana, like Washington.

"As more states move to legalize marijuana, this problem is only going to increase," Wang concluded. "Now is the time to be proactive and intervene."

Source: University of Colorado Denver

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