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article imageCanada's pot plan facing two new crises — Kids and edibles

By Karen Graham     Nov 11, 2018 in Health
Following a sharp increase in cannabis poisoning among young people, Canadian health professionals are calling for tighter controls to keep edible marijuana products away from minors.
Canada has a serious problem going on right now with kids and marijuana edibles - and if the law was to be enforced, most marijuana retailers would be shut down.
Marijuana edibles are not legal in Canada and probably won't become legal until sometime in 2019. The law, however, has done little to stop online retailers and physical stores from openly selling brownies and candies infused with cannabis throughout the country, according to The Guardian.
Ontario and Toronto have seen almost 600 cases of marijuana poisoning in the last year for patients under the age of 20 - nearly double the number of cases in 2014. The two provinces also reported 24 children under the age of four years old taken to emergency rooms last year after eating edible cannabis candy, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information.
The market for pot is in full bloom thanks to burgeoning industrial growing operations  marijuana ed...
The market for pot is in full bloom thanks to burgeoning industrial growing operations, marijuana edibles and a higher demand for equipment from those who want to grow -- or consume -- cannabis at home
Josh Edelson, AFP/File
"We've seen a spike for sure," says Margaret Thompson, director of the Ontario Poison Centre. “Will we see a huge increase as they did in some of the United States? I can’t say for sure.”
According to Andrew Dixon, an emergency pediatrician, and professor at the University of Alberta, with marijuana now legal, children are going to be facing higher risks, both intentional and unintentional. "The new law is going to result in carelessness. While cannabis edibles are not yet legal, they exist and they're going to be in the house and lying around, which is going to be a risk for kids," said Dixon.
Marijuana poisoning in the United States
The Center on Addiction released a report in April this year that looked at the rates of childhood exposure to THC in the United States. They found that between 2006 and 2013, the rate of marijuana exposures among children aged five and younger increased by 148 percent. Moreover, the number of young children accidentally exposed to marijuana has increased every year from 2013 through 2016.
In the state of Colorado, the rate of cannabis exposure in young children increased 150 percent from 2014 to 2016, with half of the exposures involving legal, recreational marijuana.
It is pointed out that there are many places children might find marijuana edibles, including in the car, on the playground, at grandma’s house and especially when going Trick-or-Treating. Quite a number of children were sickened by marijuana-infused candy this year, in both the U.S. and in Canada.
The problem with the marijuana edibles being sold in Canada or being made at home today is the inconsistency in the amount of THC, the psychoactive part of marijuana, in the edible, be it candy or brownies. Under new regulations for marijuana products, including edibles in Canada, there will be limits on the amount of THC in edible products containing marijuana.
More importantly, parents and older children need to understand that marijuana edibles contain more of the THC than in other forms of pot. Additionally, when compared to adults, children tend to experience more severe clinical effects from marijuana exposure. Effects can range from lethargy, difficulty concentrating and slurred speech to respiratory depression and even seizures.
"We expect to see intentional poisonings among teens—and adults, for that matter—experimenting with edibles because they don't realize that absorption takes hours compared to minutes when smoking, and will likely ingest toxic amounts hoping for an effect," says Dixon.
Dixon also points out there are no medications that can counteract the poisoning. "We provide largely supportive care at the hospital, which may include respiratory tubes or intravenous fluids while we wait for it to pass."
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