Jennifer M. Whitehill
Findings published in JAMA Network Open highlight a 140% increase in calls to poison control centers for pediatric and adolescent marijuana ingestions after the legalization of medical marijuana in Massachusetts.
“As states across the country enact more permissive marijuana policies, we need to do more to promote safe storage in households with children,” study researcher Jennifer M. Whitehill, PhD, assistant professor of health promotion and policy at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, said in a news release.
Whitehill and colleagues conducted a cross-sectional comparison of calls to poison control centers for pediatric marijuana exposures 4 years before and after the legalization of medical marijuana.
Between 2009 and 2016, the Regional Center for Poison Control and Prevention received 218 calls for marijuana exposure in children and teenagers aged 0 to 19 years. Most of these calls involved polysubstance ingestions (n = 120), and 98 were for single-substance ingestions. The calls received during the study period accounted for 0.5% of all calls to poison control in this age group.
More than half of marijuana ingestions occurred among males (n = 132; 60.6%).
The researchers calculated that calls for single-substance marijuana ingestions increased 140% after legalization of medical marijuana, skyrocketing from 0.4 to 1.1 per 100,000 population (incidence rate ratio = 2.4; 95% CI, 1.5-3.9).
“While we’re pleased to see that the incidence is relatively low, we feel these cases are preventable, and the issue needs to be on the radar of policymakers and parents, particularly now that dispensaries are open for adult-use sales,” Whitehill said.
Teenagers aged 15 to 19 years accounted for most calls to poison control during the study period (n = 178 calls; 81.7%). However, calls for single-substance marijuana exposures increased for all age groups after legalization from 29 calls to 69 calls per 100,000 population.
“Given what we’ve seen here, I would expect the calls to the poison control center to increase even more,” Whitehill said. – by Katherine Bortz
Disclosures: Whitehill reports receiving the same data used in this study through a contractual agreement with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) for conducting a different analysis. However, her work on this study was not funded by the MDPH. Please see the study for all other authors’ relevant financial disclosures.