Protecting children from the dangers of marijuana has always been an issue in this country. With marijuana now starting to become legal in some states, it’s going to become an even bigger issue and it’s apparent that Colorado and Washington are suffering the most from this lack of safety, regulation and standardization. That’s because marijuana-related calls to poison control centers in the first two recreationally legal states have spiked since they started sales last year. What’s even more disturbing is that most of the calls are related to young children.
New year-end data is being presented to Colorado’s Legislature this week that will allegedly show that the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center received 151 calls for marijuana exposure last year, the first year of retail recreational pot sales. That was up from 88 calls in 2013 and 61 in 2012, the year voters legalized pot. Calls to the Washington Poison Center for marijuana exposures jumped by more than half, from 158 in 2013 to 246 last year. Calls involving children nearly doubled in both states: to 48 in Washington involving children 12 or under, and to 45 in Colorado involving children 8 or under.
Dr. Alex Garrard is the clinical managing director of the Washington Poison Center. He said, “There’s a bit of a relaxed attitude that this is safe because it’s a natural plant, or derived from a natural plant. But this is still a drug. You wouldn’t leave Oxycontin lying around on a countertop with kids around, or at least you shouldn’t.” Garrard went on to explain that about half of Washington’s calls last year involved hospital visits, with most of the patients being evaluated and released. But ten people were admitted to intensive care units and half were under 20 years old.
It’s important to point out that most of the products involved in Washington’s exposure cases were found at the state’s unregulated medical marijuana dispensaries, but not licensed recreational shops. The licensed shops are banned from selling marijuana gummy bears or other items that might appeal to children. The problem is that medical dispensaries outnumber legal stores across the state.
The Washington Legislature is working proposals for more strongly regulating the medical marijuana industry.