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B.C. doctors warn legalizing edible pot could increase risk for children

Marijuana legalization in the U.S. has led to more poisoning among infants, toddlers

Accidentally ingesting cannibas can result in severe marijuana poisoning and put children in a coma, according to doctors.

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Accidentally ingesting cannibas can result in severe marijuana poisoning and put children in a coma, according to doctors.

B.C. doctors are warning parents and authorities about the potential risk cannabis edibles pose to children, especially if the federal legalization of marijuana does not include regulations for edibles.

Fraser Health medical officer Dr. Michelle Murti penned an article in the October edition of B.C. Medical Journal, citing a Colorado study that found there were almost twice as many hospital visits for accidental exposure to cannabis in children two years after legalization.

“The ongoing unregulated availability of cannabis edibles poses a particular risk to children who are more likely to unintentionally ingest such products,” wrote Murti.

The Canadian government has said marijuana will be legalized by July 2018. It is not clear yet exactly how the legislation will address edibles.

Accidental marijuana poisoning among children is one of doctors’ biggest concerns around legalization, confirmed Dr. Patricia Daly, chief medical health officer at Vancouver Coastal Health.

“Studies across America show a dramatic increase in childhood marijuana poisoning in states that had either legalized medicinal or recreational marijuana. This can be quite a serious condition,” she said.

Cannabis poisoning in infants, toddlers, and young children can affect their breathing and put them in a coma. Daly says she has heard countless stories from parents whose children inadvertently consumed brownies or candy laced with marijuana.

The risk is especially clear when the issue is in the public eye, such as when the City of Vancouver introduced business licences for marijuana dispensaries. Daly successfully recommended to councillors that edibles not be allowed as part of that framework.

“After I made that recommendation to city council, I heard many stories from people about their children inadvertently consuming cannabis and resulting in overdoses,” she said.

If adults decide to consume edible marijuana products, they should ensure they don’t get in the hands of children, she said.

“They need to keep these products out of the reach of children and in childproof containers.”

But even youth and adults who intentionally eat cannabis products need to be careful. Monitoring dosage in edibles is challenging and most cannabis-related hospital visits are due to edibles, said Daly.

In fact, out of 65 cases of marijuana poisoning after the 2015 4/20 rally at St. Paul’s Hospital, 76 per cent of them were caused by edible products, she said.

In her article, Murti says governments should roll out education programs about edibles for consumers and establish marketing restrictions for edibles. Daly agrees and likens it to the fight against tobacco companies when cigarettes were advertised to children.

“It's like the old days where cigarette makers have cigarettes that look like candy. We don’t allow that anymore, and we certainly shouldn’t permit cannabis products to be sold this way.”

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