Marijuana ingestions are causing significant harm to children.

This month, the Connecticut legislature is working on passing a bill aimed at keeping marijuana products away from young children. Raised House Bill No. 5155: An act concerning the safe storage of cannabis, cannabis products and prescriptions drugs is going to help drastically cut down on the amount of accidental marijuana ingestions and will likely save many lives.

Dr. Joseph B. Gallagher

As a Hartford-based pediatrician, I have seen the harm that marijuana ingestion can cause. Children may suffer rapid onset of altered mental status, vomiting, poor coordination, and slurred speech. In more severe cases, marijuana overdose can lead to depression of the central nervous system resulting in decreased respiratory rates, low heart rates, and decreased activity levels to the point of lethargy, loss of consciousness, and even coma.

When caring for kids with marijuana poisoning there are major concerns. These include lack of clear labeling, standard sizing, or limits on cannabis products, making it difficult to give a prognosis since the ingested dosage is unknown.

Here are some proposed policies/regulations that will be of benefit once House Bill No. 5155 is passed:

  • Clear labeling. An important first step is knowing what is in the package. Adults will try to keep edibles away from children. However, sometimes when unlabeled gummies or chocolates are found, they are given to kids simply because there is no warning and caregivers do not realize that the chocolate bar in the freezer isn’t safe for our children.
  • Serving size limits. Setting a maximum dose per serving or unit of sale for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive compound in marijuana, will mean that children, if exposed to cannabis product, will be less likely to ingest ultrahigh doses. The toxic effects of marijuana can range from hours to days, and these effects are dose dependent. Listing THC and cannabidiol concentrations on packaging will better allow poison control experts to aide children in the event of overdosing.
  • Childproof packaging. A great preventive measure includes limiting access from small fingers using childproof packaging. Prohibiting cannabis product types that appeal to children will limit consumption. Kids will also be less likely to accidentally ingest cannabis products if the packaging is unappealing in color.
  • Safe Storage Education. Development and distribution of materials pertaining to storing prescription drugs and cannabis and cannabis products in a manner that renders such items inaccessible to children is a must. Providing the education on safe storage will help to decrease the accidental ingestions.

Unintentional pediatric exposures to cannabis products have led to life-threating toxicity in young children, some have even needed treatment in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.

In truth, most poisonings/ingestions occur while guardians are present but not paying attention. Please call the poison control center immediately at 1-800-222-1222 if you suspect accidental ingestions of any kind. Please keep edibles locked up and out of sight when young children come to visit.

And please reach out to your state representative to encourage the adoption of House Bill No. 5155. We must take every measure to keep these products away from our children.