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Colorado Children’s Hospital Sees Surge in Kids Accidentally Eating Marijuana

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The state of Colorado appears to be suffering unintended effects after voting to legalize medical marijuana in 2012.

According to a recent study published in the July 2013 edition of JAMA Pediatrics, shortly after the legalization of marijuana, doctors at Children’s Hospital Colorado noticed a spike in the number of young children requiring emergency treatment for the accidental ingestion of the drug.

What’s more, an estimated half of those emergency cases resulted from children eating marijuana-laced cookies, brownies, sodas or candy.

The Frightening Facts

The research study, led by Dr. George Sam Wang, a medical toxicology fellow at the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center in Denver, analyzed emergency room visits for kids under the age of 12 who were specifically seen for poisonings and ingestions of any kind. From January 2005 through September 2009, there were no marijuana-related visits among 790 patients under the age of 12. Between October 2009 and December 2011, however, 15 of 588 children under the age of 12 were seen for marijuana exposure. Eight of those emergency situations involved medical marijuana, while seven were caused by an ingestion of food containing the drug.

Eight of those emergency situations involved medical marijuana, while seven were caused by an ingestion of food containing the drug.

Though official statistics have yet to be compiled in other states, the number of children presenting to Children’s Hospital Colorado for marijuana ingestion is well on its way to doubling last year’s total. So far, nine children have been admitted to the Colorado ER in 2014. Of the nine children admitted this year, seven were transported to the hospital’s intensive-care unit for symptoms of extreme sedation or agitation. One child suffered breathing problems that required emergency use of a respirator.

A Look at the Children Affected

  • Children treated for marijuana poisoning are generally between the ages of 3 and 7 years old.
  • Most parents of affected children hold a medical marijuana card.
  • After eating marijuana, children show exaggerated symptoms associated with marijuana use.
  • Marijuana poisoning causes extreme sleepiness and pronounced balance problems.
  • In severe cases, children are very lethargic and suffer respiratory problems.
  • Diagnosis can be difficult, as parents are rarely forthcoming about accidental exposure.

Medical Marijuana and Children

Medical marijuana poses a particular danger to young children because it has a higher concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the active chemical ingredient of the drug. Packaged as baked goods or candies, these treats are naturally appealing to children. Experts suggest these “seemingly harmless” forms of medical marijuana are largely to blame for increased occurrences of accidental ingestion. Remember to keep your medical marijuana products in a safe place, far away from the reach of your children.


If you or someone you know is struggling with marijuana abuse, please consider looking for marijuana addiction treatment centers in your area.

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