Pediatric ingestions of marijuana substantially increased among young children after it was legalized in several states, according to research published in Pediatric Emergency Care.
The researchers wrote that although California legalized medicinal marijuana in 1996, the legal marijuana industry did not expand until 2009 when more states passed legislation and the enforcement of laws against the sale and use of marijuana was relaxed by the United States Department of Justice.
By 2017, 29 states and the District of Columbia legalized medicinal marijuana. Nine of these states, including D.C., also legalized marijuana for recreational use.
Henry Spiller, MS, D.ABAT, director of the Central Ohio Poison Center at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, told Infectious Diseases in Children that just because a drug is “natural” does not mean it is safe.
“In the case of young children, marijuana should be treated as any other drug, such as heart or diabetes medications,” he said. “It should be out of reach in safe, locked locations.”
Because they weigh less than adults, children can very quickly consume high doses of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, with infused and edible products, Spiller said.
The researchers conducted a retrospective review of ingestions reported in the National Poison Data System between Jan. 1, 2000, and July 31, 2017, among children aged younger than 6 years.
The annual rate of marijuana ingestions occurring between 2000 and 2008 remained stable among children. The rate then increased 27% a year beginning in 2009, resulting in 742 ingestions per year in 2017.
Most cases — more than 70% — were reported in states that legalized marijuana, the researchers said.
Some form of hospital care was required for 54.6% of children who ingested marijuana, including 7.7% who required critical care for a “wide range of symptoms, from drowsiness and confusion, to seizures and coma,” according to Spiller and colleagues. When medical care was needed, children received a range of treatment, including hydration therapy, sedation and intubation. Poison control centers safely managed nearly one-quarter of ingestions by phone. These children did not require hospital evaluation.
“Children are curious,” Spiller said. “These products should not be used in front of small children. They should be kept in child-resistant containers and out of the reach of small children.” – by Katherine Bortz
Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.