Results are beginning to come in on the increased exposure children have to marijuana and the numbers indicate a serious problem could be developing. A study recently published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics says that in Colorado the rates of marijuana exposure in young children, many of them toddlers, have increased 150 percent since 2014, when recreational marijuana products, like sweets, went on the market legally. A separate study conducted by researchers at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and published in the journal Clinical Pediatrics, showed a 147.5% increase in marijuana exposure among children younger than 6 years old between 2006 and 2013. That rate spiked by 610% over the same period in states where marijuana was legalized for medicinal purposes before 2000.
Although the total number of reported cases in the second study— 1,969 children between 2000 and 2013 — is not large, the researchers say the rapid escalation in the rate of exposure is a cause for concern. More than 75% of the children who were exposed to marijuana were under 3 years old. They ingested it in the form of brownies, cookies and other foods containing the drug. According to co-author Henry Spiller, director of the Central Ohio Poison Center at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, this high percentage could be connected to the types of foods marijuana was used in. “”The high percentage of ingestions may be related to the popularity of marijuana brownies, cookies and other foods,” says Spiller. “Very young children explore their environments by putting items in their mouths, and foods such as brownies and cookies are attractive,” he added.
Health Problems Rising…and so are Concerns for Better Oversight
Most of the children exposed to marijuana had only minor problems, but some suffered breathing problems, seizures and even comas. More than 18 percent of the young children exposed to marijuana were hospitalized, the study authors said. The findings are cause for concern, said study senior author Dr. Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy.” Any state considering marijuana legalization needs to include child protections in its laws from the very beginning. Child safety must be part of the discussion when a state is considering legalization of marijuana,” he said.
These results indicate a need for adults who consider using marijuana to know that children need to be taken into consideration. Although the research regarding addiction issues with marijuana is not yet conclusive, what is certain is that its use around children poses serious health risks.
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