According to a new report published in JAMA Pediatrics, more children are going to the emergency room in Colorado for accidental cannabis exposure since recreational sales began in the state in 2014. More reports are also being made to the poison control center for the same reason.
Of course opponents of legalization will latch onto this news as proof that legalization is horrible for “the children!” But to be fair we must examine all the factors at work here.
To begin with, more parents are going to be comfortable enough to report their children’s accidental marijuana exposure now that it is legal. Before it was legal, to report your child to the poison control center or take them to the ER was to admit to a crime: marijuana possession. So these numbers are likely to keep going up, at least for the near future.
This is not to say that parents shouldn’t be aware of what they’re kids are getting into. This seems like a no-brainer and applies to many substances that can be found throughout the typical home. Of course, exposure to marijuana won’t kill a child, unlike something like bleach or drain cleaner or rat poison.
If you have a small child and have something like a cannabis edible – which can be indistinguishable from a regular brownie or cookie to a child – keep them safely hidden or locked away. The edible, not the child.
It’s impossible to know if cases of accidental marijuana exposure are really increasing because it’s hard to get an accurate number prior to 2014. But one has to think that the use of edibles is on the rise since they are able to be bought in a store, as opposed to the more labor-intensive task of actually making them. So the amount of edibles that kids are able to get their hands on could indeed be going up.
In addition to better parental oversight, other steps can be taken such as child-proof and clearly-marked packaging, which is now required by law in Colorado. The market will find many ways to address the problem, including products that haven’t even been invented yet.
That’s the beauty of legalization: these problems can be worked on out in the open by legitimate businesses.