Marijuana edibles send 15 children to Central Virginia hospitals: 'It’s going to get worse'

Posted at 4:01 PM, Aug 05, 2021

RICHMOND, Va. -- Products for sale online sound a lot like children’s candy: Whiz Edibles Strawberry Gummies, Neon Sour Bears, Mini Brownies and Doobie Doo Cookies.

“If you’re not there the child sees the medicine on the table and think it’s candy,” said Dr. Rutherfoord Rose, Director of the Virginia Poison Center located at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.

His team handles all poison emergency calls from Central Virginia to Virginia’s East Coast.

Dr. Rose fears a rise in cases of children ingesting marijuana edibles and getting sick.

The edibles, which look like candy, cookies, or brownies, typically contain about 10 mg of THC — the chemical component of cannabis that causes a high — and are meant to be taken in single servings by adults.

Thirty-nine states plus DC have legalized or decriminalized cannabis, and many of them are doing their part to keep edibles out of kids' hands by requiring edibles to be sold in child-proof packaging that clearly shows the amount of THC.

Some states ban packaging that imitates other popular snacks and the use of cartoons, animal shapes, or anything that might be attractive to children.

“Clearly, the states that have legalized marijuana in past years have seen an increase in exposures in children like in Colorado, Washington state, as well as admissions to hospitals because of this,” Dr. Rose explained.

In 2019, Virginia Poison Center saw 13 calls related to individuals ingesting marijuana edibles and having adverse reactions. That number rose to 35 exposure calls in 2020 and 78 exposure calls as of August 4, 2021.

“Seventy-six percent of these were in children and it seemed like two and three years old are at the highest risk,” Dr. Rose stated. “About half of our human exposure calls involve children under the age of six.”

So far this year, 15 children were rushed to the hospital after ingesting edibles and five of those patients required treatments in critical care units. There have been no reported cases where the child has died or were in a coma due to exposure in Central Virginia to the East Coast.

“Some people don’t call anybody, or they may call the pediatrician. They may do nothing. They may go to the ER and then the ER could call us. So we know there’s more happening than what is we are reporting,” Rose recalled.

The experts warned anyone with edibles or other illegal substances at home to lock them up out of sight and out of reach of children.

“It’s going to get worse, and the problem is they make them look like a gummy or candy,” Rose said.

Overdoses related to ingesting marijuana plant material or flowers is not common, Dr. Rose said.
Signs that a child has ingested marijuana edibles include paleness, vomiting, agitation, hallucinations, dilated pupils, intoxicated appearance, slurred speech, and sometimes seizures.

You can reach the Poison Control Center at 800-222-1222. If the individual is unconscious, not breathing, or having a seizure then call 911 immediately.

Kellan Howell at Newsy first reported this story and contributed to this report.

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