Child ER visits for marijuana on the rise following legalization

Edible marijuana products were responsible for more than half of all exposure cases studied

AURORA, Colo. — Legalized recreational marijuana has sent more children to the emergency room to receive treatment for marijuana exposure, a new study finds.

Pulling admissions data from 2009 to 2015, researchers counted 244 children under the age of 10 who were admitted into a local children’s hospital or a regional poison center for marijuana exposure. The study was recently published in JAMA Pediatrics.

In the two years before recreational marijuana was legalized in Colorado in 2014, marijuana-related admissions to the children’s hospital were just 1.2 per 100,000 people. Now, that number has jumped to 2.3 per 100,000.

“We expected a slight increase in marijuana exposures in young children after the legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado, but the increase was much more dramatic — five fold — than we anticipated,” Dr. Genie Roosevelt told CBS 10 News.

Roosevelt, one of the authors of the study, noted that some cases of child marijuana exposure were so severe that they resulted in ICU admission. A handful of younger children developed respiratory issues that required the use of a ventilator. 

Many of the children admitted to the poison control center had accidentally consumed edible marijuana products, which can appear to be harmless candy or baked goods when found outside of a child-proof container. 

Edible products were responsible for over half of the cases of children treated for exposure.

“We’d like people to think of these products as medication,” Roosevelt added. “Stored out of sight and away from children, like your aunt’s diabetic medication.”

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