Allowing marijuana to be part of national commerce would presumably make it subject to tighter regulations, including packaging that didn’t appeal to small kids.
It was once believed to be propaganda: The idea that children of cannabis consumers were somehow getting their hands on the herb, ingesting it, only to later be strapped to various machines and gizmos down at their local hospital until the high wore off.
Some marijuana advocates are still convinced that this was just another way for The Man to disturb the course of legalization in the United States so cops can continue busting the skulls of stoners. In reality, however, thousands of kids every year are finding their parent’s pot stash, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers. It’s a problem that has worsened as more states have legalized for recreational use. So, what gives? Why can’t parents keep weed away from kids?
Cannabis industry officials no longer deny that children are being poisoned by edibles. But they place most of the blame on the actions of irresponsible parents. “I think that a lot of parents are falling behind on the learning curve when it comes to responsibly storing cannabis products the way that they would alcohol and medications and household cleaners and things of that nature,” Morgan Fox, media relations director for the National Cannabis Industry Association, told KATC-3.
For whatever reason, the cannabis industry continues to market edible pot as though their customer base is 12 and under. Step inside nearly any dispensary in a legal weed state and you’ll see a cannabis version of a wide variety of popular candies. There’s Zombie Skittles (packaged to mimic the famous Skittles brand,) and Cannaburst Gummies (designed in the image of Starburst). We’ve even seen Ganja Joy, Stoned Patch, Medicated Nerds, the list goes on.
The likenesses of these product’s packaging are so similar to the existing, THC-free brands that many candy companies, including Mars Inc., have filed lawsuits for copyright infringement. They want weed companies to get their own identities and stop ripping them off. Nevertheless, marijuana edibles, which are only supposed to be sold to adults 21 and older, continue to be distributed in containers that are attractive to kids. Meanwhile, the industry keeps preaching responsible use.
The results haven’t been good. The number of poison control calls from children ingesting cannabis jumped from 132 in 2016 to nearly 2500 last year. If it’s still too early in the morning for you to do the math, that’s around a 1600 percent increase. Out of the many calls, Julie Weber of the American Association of Poison Control Centers says 88% must be referred to emergency rooms. In most cases, this is to ensure the child doesn’t suffer serious side effects.
‘We did have to refer them into the emergency department because of the risk for seizures,” she said of one specific call to a poison control center where the kid ate 12 medicated gummies.
Even cannabis-consuming parents admit the problem with edibles is real. Earlier this year, Elizabeth Perry of Washington D.C., where marijuana is legal, noticed something wrong with her 21-month-old son. She told CBS News that when she laid him down in his crib, “he kind of went rigid and started shaking and crying.” Later, at the hospital, Perry learned that Oliver tested positive for THC. The child had gotten into her stash of edible gummies and consumed enough to make him seriously ill. “My first thought was, I did this to him, this is my fault,” she told the news source.
Part of the solution seems to hinge on federal marijuana legalization. Allowing marijuana to be part of national commerce would presumably make it subject to tighter regulations, like alcohol and tobacco, and the industry probably wouldn’t be allowed to package products in containers that appeal to small kids. Senate Majority Leader Schumer is pushing a pot proposal in the upper chamber this session, yet it does not have much traction. And it’s not immediately clear just how much regulatory control Uncle Sam would impose.
Until there are more rules for childproof packaging, healthcare officials say the best weed-loving parents can do to prevent more children from THC exposure is to properly secure all pot products and pay closer attention. They must assume the bulk of the responsibility if they are going to bring edibles into the house.