‘One kid might just think it’s candy’: Increase in children eating edibles

Experts say the amount of THC can cause severe drowsiness, breathing problems and nausea in young children.
Updated: Sep. 26, 2022 at 6:00 AM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - An increasing number of young children are eating marijuana-laced candy, according to figures from poison control centers across the country and in Arizona. The ‘edibles’ come in all shapes and colors — appearing to be candies, brownies, gummies and even cereal. But the edibles, when in young hands, are causing some serious problems.

“These are addictive, poisonous substances,” said Stephanie Siete, who educates children and parents about the dangers of drugs and vapes with the group Community Bridges. She said marijuana’s evolution from the ‘joint’ in the 1960′s to the pot-infused gummy bears today has been especially dangerous to young children. “One kid might just think it’s candy,” Siete said. “A little toddler might pick that up. The family pet might grab that and chew on that.”

Poison centers across the country report a dramatic rise in the number of calls they’ve received regarding children under the age of 12 exposed to cannabis edibles. Poison control centers reported 187 calls in 2016 and more than 4,300 calls in 2021. The Banner Poison and Drug Information Center in Phoenix also reports an increase in calls. In 2020, Banner took 127 calls regarding children under the age of five exposed to marijuana. In 2021, the group took 201 calls, while so far in 2022, they have received 150 calls.

“When we get these calls, it’s pretty much an automatic send-in for us. That these children need to be observed in an emergency room where they can get the assistance that’s needed,” said Maureen Roland, managing director at the Banner Poison and Drug Information Center.

Roland said the amount of THC, the main psychoactive compound in marijuana and commonly found in edibles today, can cause severe drowsiness, breathing problems and nausea in young children. She says in rare cases, complications have led to death.

She said the edibles and products out today are stronger and more accessible than in decades past. “We are seeing higher [THC] concentrations, higher purity rates, and you know, just stronger product that’s out there,” Roland said.

Recreational marijuana use became legal in Arizona at the end of 2020. The number of child exposures has increased ever since that time. Unlike other prescription drugs, edibles do not usually come in child-resistant packaging.

Siete said more needs to be done to control the product getting into the wrong, little hands. “I think the big word is poison,” she said. “We 100 percent need more regulations.”

TIPS FOR KEEPING CHILDREN SAFE

  • Keep any edibles in a child-resistant container
  • Do not let young children see edibles being consumed because children like to imitate their parents
  • If your child is exposed or even if you think there is a possibility your child was exposed to an edible, call (800) 222-1222 and be connected to the local poison control center.