From 2006-2013, the rate of marijuana exposure among children younger than six rose by 147.5%, according to a new study conducted by researchers at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. In states that legalized medical marijuana use, the rate of exposure increased by almost 610%. The research was comprised from the National Poison Data System data, which compiles reports from Poison Control Centers across the US. The average age of children exposed to marijuana in the study was 1.81 years. Over 75% of the children exposed to marijuana were younger than 3 years of age.
The majority of children (75%) were exposed to marijuana through ingesting it. Researchers believe this reflects how marijuana is available to children in the home. Researchers state: “The high percentage of ingestions may be related to the popularity of marijuana brownies, cookies and other foods. Very young children explore their environments by putting items in their mouths, and foods such as brownies and cookies are attractive.”
Most of the reported exposures led to only minor issues however, a number of children had severe symptoms such as seizures, decreased breathing and, in some instances, coma and death. The researchers believe that some of the more severe effects are due to the higher levels of THC found in marijuana food products.
“Any state considering marijuana legalization needs to include child protections in its laws from the very beginning,” says Dr. Smith, also director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s. “Child safety must be part of the discussion when a state is considering legalization of marijuana.”
There are many factors that come into play when marijuana legalization is discussed. Given the current research, states also need to take into account children’s health and safety as a major determining factor.