DENVER – Colorado doctors say looser pot laws are leading to more child poisonings for youngsters who are often attracted by drug-laced edibles such as gummy worms or brownies.
From early 2005 to late 2009, Children’s Hospital Colorado had no emergency-room visits by kids who had ingested marijuana. In the next two years, after medical marijuana became legal in Colorado, it had 14 cases. So far, no deaths have been reported.
Doctors are campaigning for mandatory safety packaging as Colorado lawmakers debate even broader legal sales of pot with recreational-marijuana stores.
“We’ve seen a dramatic increase in pediatric exposure,” said Dr. George Wang, a Children’s ER doctor who also works with Denver Health’s Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center.
Dr. Michael Kosnett said careful parenting is also part of the equation.
Children ingesting pot is also dangerous because emergency-room doctors aren’t usually looking for it as a cause of any symptoms they see, Wang said. That can lead to invasive and expensive diagnostic efforts, such as a spinal tap or CT scan, if parents are embarrassed or scared to mention the true cause.
“When children get admitted to the ICU, that’s serious,” Kosnett said. Symptoms may appear similar to meningitis, for example.
At Children’s Hospital Colorado, doctors reported serious symptoms, including decreased levels of consciousness and breathing trouble. Children can also vomit from ingesting too much of it.
Some industry members favor tamper-proof seals, but they would rather not break each individual joint or candy into a lockable bag that cost $7 or more.
Robin Hackett, co-owner of Botana Care, a medical-marijuana store in Northglenn, said that would drive up the cost.
The Denver Post reported calls about potential marijuana exposure for all ages have doubled since 2009 at one poison center.
Prescribed dosages of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana products used to control nausea from chemotherapy, is between 4 and 12 milligrams for most children ages 2 to 4, while some edibles have up to 300 milligrams of the active ingredient in marijuana.
There is no statewide reporting. Some doctors have gone through files to try to determine the impact, while others do not track those cases.