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Have more children ingested marijuana edibles since possession became legal in Virginia?

Posted at 7:24 AM, Jan 23, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-23 07:24:56-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- Less than two years ago, Virginia became the latest in a group of states to legalize personal possession of marijuana.

But in the time since marijuana has become more common in the Commonwealth, some health experts are concerned about the growing number of young kids getting their hands on it.

According to the Virginia Poison Center, 88 children under age six ingested marijuana edibles in 2022. That's compared to 52 in 2021 and only three calls related to edibles in children in 2018.

"Some of these things look just like commercial candy bars," explained Dr. Ruddy Rose, executive director of the Virginia Poison Center. "But they're also in in brownies. They're in Goldfish, cookies. If it's in a food or what looks like a candy, your child's not gonna know that."

Rose also noted that he believes more calls are coming in now because personal possession of cannabis is legal, so parents are less afraid of admitting their child might have accidentally consumed the drug.

"About 40% of poison center calls involve children," said Rose. "And so in of all those cases, about 13% of children end up being treated at a hospital. If you look at these marijuana edible products in children, three quarters, or 78% are being treated in hospital, and almost 10% get admitted to an intensive care unit for monitoring, so this is a big deal."

Virginia Poison Center numbers show it's not just the number of calls related to marijuana in children rising.

In 2018, there were 90 calls related to marijuana across all ages. In 2022, there were 414 calls — that’s a more than a 300% increase.

"Particularly with these products, some have a label dose on them, some don't," noted Rose. "Even those that have a label dose on them, when tested, they may not be accurate. And the other thing is the response or how you feel after using a marijuana product really depends on your tolerance, how often you use it. So if you're a novice user, you can have a completely different effect on your behavior and how you feel compared to someone who ingest the same dose but is a regular user, so that that impacts a lot about why somebody might seek medical care."

Rose said he would like to see Virginia create legislation that regulates packaging of cannabis products to help everyone understand their safety limits, and he also wants to remind parents to treat these products like medicine and keep them out of reach of children.

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