Warning: Cannabis Edibles and Kids

A new study has found a “consistent increase in pediatric edible cannabis exposures over the past five years, with the potential for significant toxicity.” More than 7,000 children ended up in the hospital after eating CBD or THC candies and similar substances — an increase of 1,375% over five years. 23% of the children were hospitalized. Over 90% of them found these edibles in their homes. 

One reason is simply the increasing availability of marijuana edibles. Twenty-one states have made the recreational use of marijuana legal. Packaging for cannabis candy and regular candy can be very similar. The example above is extreme — the Mars company is complaining about copyright violation — but many cannabis edibles are packaged in ways that appeal to children. The candies themselves may not look different from ordinary candy that children would recognize as a treat.

Edibles that look like candy or baked goods are not legal in Arkansas. Our state law specifically forbids cannabis edibles that “closely resemble foods or beverages that are attractive to children.” However, edibles may be carried in from other states. The fact that they are illegal in Arkansas can keep parents from considering the possibility to recognizing the danger. 

Another reason for the rise in hospital visits has to do with serving size. One candy bar or cookie may include more than one serving. Small children will not understand this. Since they also are smaller than adults, the effects can be more severe than for an adult who takes the expected dose.

Symptoms and treatment

Signs that kids have ingested cannabis edibles include lethargy, balance problems, confusion, and seizures. A small proportion of children may have trouble breathing or fall into a coma. A visit to the emergency room is a good response.

Treatment can include medications, breathing help, and IV fluids. 

Avoiding cannabis exposure

The most important step for parents is to make sure that any marijuana or cannabis edibles are stored safely where children cannot reach them. Avoid edibles that are packaged to appeal to children or repackage them in unappealing containers. 

Talk with older children about the potential dangers of marijuana edibles and make sure they can tell the difference between such sweets and ordinary candy or cookies. If you have questions, ask your pediatrician.