More Young Colorado Children Use Marijuana Despite Efforts to Prevent This!

Despite regulations intended to keep edibles out of the hands of kids, the number of children — especially very young children — in Colorado who consume marijuana is on the rise, and state leaders have said they have no plans to revisit those rules this year.

The Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Safety office saw a dramatic increase from 56 reports in 2017 to 151 reports in 2021 of children age 5 or younger being exposed to marijuana. Nearly half of all marijuana exposures (ingestion, inhalation, or skin absorption) reported to the office, which is part of the nonprofit Denver Health organisation, were in this age group by 2021.

Over the course of those five years, the most common route of accidental exposure for children was through the ingestion of edibles containing the psychoactive chemical tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), such as gummies, cookies, drinks, and other products.

There were 35 cases of unintentional marijuana exposure in children aged 5 and under in 2017, and an estimated 97 cases in 2021 due to edibles. According to the poison and drug safety office, exposures are not always indicative of poisoning or overdosing in children.

Colorado is a leader in the nationwide rise in the number of children who have been exposed to marijuana. Colorado health officials have not communicated any plans to revise the regulations meant to prevent children from using marijuana, and the federal government has not yet created uniform protocols.

In an email to KHN, Shannon Gray, a spokesperson for the state agency responsible for regulating the marijuana industry, said, “Marijuana laws and regulations are regularly evaluated by lawmakers, state agencies, local agencies, and the various stakeholders.” “Preventing access by minors is a top priority, and to the extent that there is room in the rules to do so, we do so.”

More Young Colorado Children Are Consuming Marijuana Despite Efforts to Stop Them

Since recreational marijuana sales began in Colorado in 2014, several regulations have been put in place to prevent young people from mistaking marijuana products for harmless candies.

Regulations state that:

  • No edibles may be manufactured in the shape of a human, an animal, or a fruit.
  • All edibles must be sold in child-resistant packaging.
  • “Candy” or “candies” isn’t allowed on the packaging.
  • Advertising must not include cartoon characters, or anything else meant to appeal to children.
  • The universal THC symbol (! THC) must be on all packaging and stamped on all edible products.

According to Gabi Johnston, a spokesperson for the state’s Department of Health and Human Services, the data collected by Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Safety does not differentiate between incidents involving marijuana from licenced retailers and incidents involving marijuana from sources that do not follow the state’s packaging rules.

Gray responded that the Marijuana Enforcement Division has “observed material compliance with these regulations” from the marijuana industry, suggesting that the mandates are having the desired effect.

Gray indicated that suggestions for changes to regulations, such as those made by state legislators, could be considered. However, Jarrett Freedman, a spokesman for the majority in the Colorado House of Representatives, has stated that no legislation pertaining to edible mandates is on the horizon. In this state’s legislature, the Democrats hold sway over both chambers.

A medical toxicologist at the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, Dr Marit Tweet, has pointed out that the inability of children under the age of five to read presents a challenge when trying to regulate the packaging of marijuana. And many parents, she added, are unaware of proper marijuana storage procedures.

The state health department recognised this gap in knowledge and in 2014 launched the Retail Marijuana Education programme to better inform residents about the benefits and risks of using cannabis in a responsible manner. One fact sheet suggests parents keep their weed locked up, in child-proof packaging, and away from their kids.

In 2018, public health officials also launched a series of marijuana education campaigns directed at new parents and adults who have influence over children’s behaviour. The budgeted amount for those efforts was about $22.8 million, and the department spent that amount between fiscal years 2015 and 2020.

Tweet argued that it was difficult to assess the efficacy of marijuana regulations in states like Colorado. One could speculate that “the numbers would be even higher if those regulations weren’t in place.”

What we’re seeing in Colorado right now is representative of a larger pattern across the country. This issue was examined in a January study that tracked the number of U.S. children younger than 6 who consumed marijuana edibles from 2017 to 2021. In 2017, there were 207 confirmed cases. According to the National Poison Data System, the number of reported poisonings in 2021 increased to 3,054.

Tweet, who was not involved in the study, speculated that the increase in accidental child exposures was related to the legalisation of cannabis. “There are more entry points and more options for the kids.”

Furthermore, she suggested that parents may now feel more comfortable making appointments at health clinics and poison control centres.

Tweet argued that more studies of marijuana laws and the prevalence of exposure among children across the country were required to understand the causes of these statistics.


Mohit Sharma

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