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Michigan sees uptick in children ingesting marijuana edibles

steve carmody
Michigan Radio

More children in Michigan are getting their hands on marijuana edibles. In 2017, the Michigan Poison Center at Wayne State University reported having six cases of children under six who ate an edible. That number climbed to 46 in 2018. In 2019, the center reports 59 cases of a child under six ingesting an edible, and the year isn’t over yet. These numbers are referring only to edibles with THC ingested by children. The center did not have data on CBD. 

Children who ingest edibles can become dizzy and disoriented, and often express that they are drowsy or sleepy. They may become unresponsive, and lose coordination, leading to stumbling. In some cases, they can have trouble breathing, or even stop breathing, and in rare cases, children can become comatose.

Dr. Andrew King is the director of Wayne State's toxicology fellowship program. He says part of the reason kids experience more potent effects is because kids are so small.

“A gummy bear is about 10 mg or so, depending where you get it from, and that’s for a novice user of THC. That’s for an adult size. And so, say a kid is one fifth or less the size of an adult, that’d be up to five times the effect you would get just based on one ingestion of a gummy bear.”

Dr. Cynthia Aaron is the medical director for the Michigan Poison Center. She says it doesn’t help that edibles are sold as small candies or cookies.

“They make them into brownies, you can buy them as candies – we had a slew of rice krispy treats, once – there’s gummy bears. And when the dose is one or two gummy bears for adults? A kid doesn’t eat one or two gummy bears! They eat the whole bag!”

She says it’s probable that the spike is connected with the recent decision to legalize marijuana both medically and recreationally in Michigan.

“I think that it will get worse for the first couple of years that people are freer with their marijuana, and then I think that as they get more comfortable with it, it will probably drop down because I'm hoping parents become more responsible with storage.”

In November of 2018, Michiganders voted to legalize recreational marijuana. The passage of that law made it legal for Michiganders to possess and use marijuana in the state, but did not allow business owners to sell it. Nevertheless, Dr. Aaron says it’s likely that children are exposed to marijuana and THC-infused products more frequently.

Dr. Aaron also stressed that the process of making edibles is not typically FDA approved, especially for home cooks looking to incorporate marijuana into a baked good. 

“There’s no guarantee that the marijuana or the marijuana oil or whatever is equally distributed in that treat. So, you could bite one end of the brownie and get a huge amount [of THC], but you bite the other and get nothing.”

Edibles should be treated like any other medicine, Dr. Aaron says. Keep them locked up and out of the reach of small children, and definitely do not store them with regular food items. If possible, they should be kept in the original child-proof packaging.

If you think your child may have eaten an edible, call 911 immediately. For 24/7 free poison expert help, call the National Poison Control Center hotline at 1-800-222-1222.

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