Children Accidentally Sick From Pot Brownies Because Who Doesn’t Love Dessert

shutterstock_132469190Accidents happen. We’ve read about tragic infant deaths blamed on overdoses of antibiotics. We were all appalled by the sabotaging husband serving up his wife meth cookies that were eaten by his kids. However, the most recent reports of children being inadvertently medicated leave me saying, “so what?” A handful of children have gotten sick – mildly so – in Colorado where marijuana is legal.

In a statement that is as controversial as “the sky is blue,” a group of pediatricians wants us to know that “[i]ncreased use of medical marijuana may lead to more young children getting sick from accidentally eating food made with the drug.”  However, beyond the link that ingesting pot will make you have pot-like side-effects, the study doesn’t dare come out and say that people should have their legal marijuana taken away. You are supposed to read between the lines for that.

The study’s lead author Dr. George Sam Wang, an emergency room physician at Colorado Children’s Hospital reports:

Fourteen children were treated at Colorado Children’s Hospital in the two years after a 2009 federal policy change led to a surge in medical marijuana use, the study found. That’s when federal authorities said they would not prosecute legal users.

By contrast, in four years preceding the policy change, the Denver-area hospital had no such cases.

The conclusion must be clear, but I’m not seeing it. Are they suggesting that parents are getting super-lax with their pot brownies since the federal authorities said they wouldn’t prosecute legal users? Or that more people in general are using medical marijuana since 2009 even though it was legal in Colorado since 2000?  Perhaps, those kids that accidentally ingested marijuana before 2009 were kept at home with parents standing over them worried for days, too scared to seek professional treatment because for some useless reason pot is illegal in the United States.  I don’t doubt the accuracy of his figures, but I’m not sure what to make of that information.

In its most profound statement, the article points out that “[m]edical marijuana items include yummy-looking gummy candies, cookies and other treats that may entice young children.” No one knows why drugs and baked goods go so well together, but it’s true. This poses little problem in a house where there are no children, but once the kiddos enter the equation, you are pretty much guaranteed a trip to the ER.

The good doctor wants parents to know the potential side-effects of accidental marijuana use by children as he witnessed during his research in the ER.

Unusual drowsiness and unsteady walking were among the symptoms. One child, a 5-year-old boy, had trouble breathing. Eight children were hospitalized, two in the intensive care unit, though all recovered within a few days, Wang said.

Some children came in laughing, glassy-eyed or “acting a little goofy and ‘off,’” Wang said. Many had eaten medical marijuana food items, although nonmedical marijuana was involved in at least three cases. The children were younger than 12 and included an 8-month-old boy.

It is worth noting two things — first, no crimes were committed or otherwise reported by this study because medical marijuana is legal in Colorado (in addition to 17 other states and the District of Columbia), and small amounts of nonmedical marijuana are legal in Colorado and Washington states.  (We’ll set aside that, in Colorado, medical marijuana use is legal for children with parents’ supervision because these cases all involve accidental exposure.)  Second, the children suffered only mild side-effects. We aren’t talking death, loss of limb or irreversible illness.

Despite those two important facts, the article’s tone is accusing and suggesting bad parenting at play rather acknowledging accidents happen — with legal drugs — or even more ordinary objects than these, like swimming pools, cars, and playground equipment.

In a journal editorial, two Seattle poisoning specialists say that at least seven more states are considering legalizing medical marijuana and that laws that expand marijuana use likely will lead to more children sickened.

No reference to all the people whose lives are improved immeasurably by medical marijuana or those who use small amounts responsibly, but perhaps the researchers are busy working on their next study — “Children Who Drink Bourbon Thinking It’s Apple Juice May Get Tipsy.”

(photo: alexmillos/Shutterstock)

You can reach this post's author, Carinn Jade, on twitter.
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    • faifai

      What I’d heard from my friends in Colorado is that they’re looking for child-proof packaging. My opinion is as follows: 1) Yes accidents happen, and it’s all fun & games until someone loses an eye at which point they’ll legislate the he11 out of it, 2) maybe parents should, I dunno, actually parent their children instead of demanding that the government do it for them (*see “buckyballs”), and 3) child-proof packaging is actually not a bad idea, but it should only be optional; I have a difficult enough time opening my bottle of Midol and my hands work just fine; I’d hate to see someone with severe rheumatoid arthritis trying to open a sealed & locked package of medicinal gum.

      • Blooming_Babies

        Agreed all around, they do offer easy open prescription packaging at the pharmacy you just have to request it so offering childproof and non-childproof options should be a no brainer for pot as well. Now if we could just come up with teenager proof cigarette packages.

    • Alex Lee

      An important distinction needs to be made: If the children were offered brownies without marijuana in them, would they still eat them?

      If yes, then this is just a matter of the adults taking better care of their prescription medication. Toddlers will down a bottle of Ambien because it looks like M&Ms. We prevent overdose fatalities with childproof packaging for medicines – I think the prescription brownies could benefit from the same if this becomes a widespread problem.

      If the answer is no, then we’re looking at an addiction-substance – which makes for sensationalist reading and is what tabloid media is hoping for – but I think is not happening in this case.

      Kids see a sweet treat and give in to their nature – not caring about what ingredients are inside. An unfortunate mistake. All were accidental exposures.

    • Brittney

      maybe if the parents had a) kept their pot brownies out of their kids reach, or b) watched their children closely enough that they would notice them eating the hell out of brownies before it was too late maybe none of that would have happened. Its not weeds fault its just bad parenting!!

    • CrazyFor Kate

      Ah, so a bunch of Helen Lovejoys are running around the US, good to know. Parents would lock up their booze, they would lock up household chemicals, they would lock up any weapons – it doesn’t take a genius to see that you put your weed somewhere the kids can’t get it. Gawd, that’s like Parenting 101, legalization or no.

      On another note, pot brownies are teh evulz when not used properly. My friends and I (back in our college days) once took way too many and ended up getting rushed to the hospital in an ambulance when someone had a bad reaction. Our sole punishment was the ER doctor gently suggesting “Don’t do so many drugs next time.” Gotta love Canada. That said, the effects are horrendous even when you know what you’ve taken – if you’re a kid who doesn’t get the concept of being high, I cannot even imagine. It was terrifying. I saw music!