March 30, 2023

The number of young children eating marijuana-laced candy has surged in five years, leaving many hospitalized, according to the latest study warning against America’s legal weed experiment.

Between 2017 and 2021, U.S. poison control centers witnessed a 14-fold increase in calls about youths getting their hands on cannabis edibles, according to a study in the journal Pediatrics on Tuesday.

While many of the children experienced only mild symptoms, such as excessive sleepiness, researchers say nearly a quarter ended up in the hospital, warning of the emergence of a new household safety risk.

The eight-page paper comes as a growing number of US states allow cannabis for recreational use, and as safety advocates warn against brightly colored packaging for so-called “edibles” that appeal to children.

The National Poison Data System (NPDS), which collects data for the 55 U.S. poison centers, has recorded a surge in cases of minors eating edible marijuana to more than 3,000 cases per year

“Accidental exposure to cannabis in young children is increasing rapidly,” the researchers warned

“These exposures can cause significant toxicity and are responsible for an increasing number of hospitalizations.”

Dr. Marit Tweet, a medical toxicologist at the Southern Illinois School of Medicine and her colleagues analyzed reports to the National Poison Data System, which includes the nation’s 55 regional poison control centers.

In 2017, there were only 207 cases of preschoolers eating edibles in the US. By 2021, that had risen to more than 3,000, Tweet said.

From more than 7,000 reports, researchers were able to track the outcomes of nearly 5,000 cases. They found that nearly 600 children, or about 8 percent, were admitted to intensive care units, mostly with respiratory depression.

Nearly 15 percent were admitted to non-critical care units and more than a third were seen in the emergency room. Drowsiness, difficulty breathing, rapid heart rate and vomiting were the most common symptoms. None of the incidents were fatal.

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Dr.  Marit Tweet, a medical toxicologist at Southern Illinois School of Medicine, sounded the alarm

Dr. Marit Tweet, a medical toxicologist at Southern Illinois School of Medicine, sounded the alarm

More than half of the children were two- and three-year-old toddlers, researchers showed. More than 90 percent received the edibles at home.

Instances of children eating pot products such as candy, chocolate and cookies have coincided with more states allowing medical and recreational use of marijuana. Currently, 37 states allow the drug for medical purposes and 21 states regulate recreational use by adults.

Tweet called for more parental vigilance and for more laws such as those passed by several states to make pot products — often packaged to look like children’s candies and snacks — less appealing and accessible to children.

“If it’s in candy form or cookies, people don’t think of it the same way they do household chemicals or other things that a child could get into,” Tweet told the AP.

‘But people should actually see it as a medicine.’

The results were not surprising, added Dr. Brian Schultz, a pediatric emergency physician at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore.

He previously worked at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C., where he and his colleagues treated children who had eaten edibles “almost daily,” he told the AP.

Reports and hospitalizations rose more sharply during the last two years of the study, during the Covid-19 pandemic, when more children were at home and there were more opportunities to find pot treats, Tweet said.

The study comes after voters in Maryland and Missouri approved measures to legalize recreational marijuana for adults during the November midterm elections, while voters in Arkansas, North Dakota and South Dakota rejected similar measures.

With the addition of Maryland and Missouri, 21 states have legalized recreational marijuana for adults in the past decade — even though it remains illegal under federal law.

Experts have warned of America’s rapid move to legalized weed amid growing evidence that widespread availability is leading to increased use, especially among young people, along with addiction and mental health problems.

Last August’s National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) annual survey found that the number of youths under 30 using marijuana hit a record by 2021, prompting agency chief Dr. Nora Volkow to call it a “concern.” mentioned.

The $30 billion cannabis industry argues that ingesting the drug — whether smoking, vaping, or as an edible — can help ease feelings of anxiety or depression, chronic pain, and even help fight addictions.

The US Cannabis Council, a major lobbying group, says legalization has broad support, that weed is safe and can help addicts overcome their opioid and alcohol addictions.

But in states where weed has been legalized, many parents say their children have been sucked into an addiction spiral.

America’s $30 billion legalized cannabis industry sparks an ‘explosion’ of teen users

Teens in states that have legalized cannabis use more of it and are lured by colorfully packaged candy-like products that leave them vulnerable to higher rates of dependence, psychosis and dropping out of school, researchers warn.

A DailyMail.com analysis of research focused on California, Massachusetts, Nevada and other states that have legalized recreational weed shows experts warn of a “potential explosion” of underage use — and more youth using it than in states where it’s illegal.

They are alarmed by the weak oversight of a $30 billion company and warn of a free market in which super-potency cannabis products are sold in cartoon-covered packaging that attracts young people, even though tobacco and alcohol companies are not allowed to target young people.

Data from the 21 states that have allowed recreational weed over the past decade, as well as the 37 states that allow medical use, indicate that teens and young adults there are more likely to use stronger products.

Not every teen who eats a jar of gummy sees their life unravel. But they are more prone to addiction and dependence than adults, and more availability and use means more cases of anxiety, depression, psychosis and even suicide.

“Cannabis use is more common among youth and adults in states where cannabis use is legal for recreational use,” Renee Goodwin, who led the Columbia University study, told DailyMail.com.

“Legalization has moved from a social justice issue to the other extreme of corporate commercialization, without the same restrictions that tobacco and alcohol now have to follow.”

Mary Maas, 57, of Washington, who legalized weed in 2012, told DailyMail.com how her son Adam, 26, fell into a devastating addiction to super-strength marijuana that was worlds away from the “Woodstock weed” she remembers from the sixties.

Now looking at the potent oils, vapes, dabs, potions, and gummies sold in a growing number of pharmacies, as well as the down-and-outs living in tents under Seattle’s I-5 freeway, she urges other states to heed the lessons.

“They’d better watch out,” she said.

Adam Maas, 26, with his family in Washington.  Mother Mary, 57, describes how her 'straight-A' student became addicted to super-strength cannabis products and ended up delusional, jobless and sleeping rough in Seattle

Adam Maas, 26, with his family in Washington. Mother Mary, 57, describes how her ‘straight-A’ student became addicted to super-strength cannabis products and ended up delusional, jobless and sleeping rough in Seattle