Don’t Eat That! It’s Grown-Up Candy

Marijuana laced food products have been accidentally eaten by small children

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Small children have a tendency to put things in their mouths that they shouldn’t. Food or drinks containing marijuana have created a unique problem for adults with children.

A recent study looked at the emergency department records of a Colorado hospital to see if small children have been accidentally consuming marijuana.

The results showed that just over half of the kids that had accidently consumed marijuana had eaten it in baked goods or candy.

"Tell a doctor if your kid has eaten marijuana."

George Sam Wang, MD, from the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center in the Denver Healthy system in Colorado, led an investigation into the rates of children being accidentally exposed to marijuana in a state where the use of marijuana is permitted.

Several states in the US allow for medical use of marijuana. And recently, the states of Colorado and Washington passed laws that allow for recreational use of marijuana.

In states where marijuana can be legally obtained, dispensaries may offer baked goods, beverages and candies that contain marijuana, in addition to traditional buds of marijuana.

Marijuana-laced food presents a unique problem: how can a child know the difference between a regular brownie or piece of candy and those that contain marijuana?

For this study, the researchers looked at the emergency department records of a major hospital in Colorado between the years of 2005 and 2011.

Annually, this emergency department saw roughly 65,000 patients. The researchers focused on patients younger than 12 years of age who were seen for the following reasons:

  • Consuming a foreign object
  • Poisoning and accidental poisoning, including medications, plants, liquids, gases and vapors
  • Toxic effects of a substance
  • Accidents caused by suffocation or foreign objects

The presence of marijuana was confirmed by a urine test for all cases labeled as "marijuana exposure."

The results of the study showed that between the years of 2005 and 2009, a total of 790 kids were suspected of accidentally consuming a substance, the majority of whom were between 1.6 and 3 years of age.

Between 2009 and 2011, a total of 588 kids were brought to the emergency department for suspected accidental consumption of a substance. Most of this group was between 1.5 and 3.6 years of age.

After each patient had his or her urine tested, the results showed that none of the 790 kids between 2005 and 2009 had accidentally consumed marijuana. The most common substance consumed was acetaminophen, brand name Tylenol.

However, of the 588 kids tested between 2009 and 2011, urine tests confirmed that a total of 14 kids had accidentally consumed marijuana. Technically, this was a 2 percent increase from before 2009 to after 2009.

Of the 14 kids exposed to marijuana, 64 percent were male and they ranged between 8 months to 12 years in age.

The most common symptoms in the children who had consumed marijuana were drowsiness, lethargy and slowed breathing.

Of the 14 marijuana exposures, eight were from food products.

“Because of a perceived stigma associated with marijuana, families may be reluctant to report its use to healthcare providers,” said the authors.

The researchers found that this lack of honest communication resulted in a lot of unnecessary tests to diagnose the foreign substance in the children.

The research also found that most of the kids were accidentally exposed to marijuana by their grandparents, which has also been the source for the majority of prescription and over-the-counter medication exposures.

The authors suggested marijuana dispensaries use child-resistant containers and warning labels for medical marijuana.

This study was published in May in JAMA Pediatrics.

No outside funding was used for this study. No conflicts of interest were declared.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 25, 2013
Last Updated:
August 9, 2013