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Arizona hospital seeing 10% increase in child cannabis exposures

Fireball-Infused Green Gummy Bears Are Perfect For St. Patrick’s Day
Posted at 6:03 PM, Dec 20, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-21 06:36:33-05

PHOENIX — Ann Torrez, the executive director at Arizona Dispensaries Association shows ABC15 the difference between unregulated and regulated THC gummies.

The unregulated gummies are packaged in a similar appearance to the popular, ‘Nerds’ candy and contain 420 mg. Regulated THC gummies should be only 100 mg.

If a child ingests unregulated THC products, it can be dangerous.

Torrez said it’s also problematic, “A child with a smartphone can, in a PayPal account, have it shipped right to their home.”

In 2021, there were 1,842 calls to poison control for reports of pediatric cannabis-related ingestion.

In 2023, there were 3,071 calls with more than half of the patients under 19 years old. 30% were children under 6 years old.

Here in Arizona, the Banner Poison and Drug Information Center said they’re also seeing an increase and released the following information about it:

Banner Poison and Drug Information Center continues to see an increase in pediatric exposures to cannabis products. So far this year, the poison center has had 152 cases related to pediatric (ages 0-5 years) cannabis exposures- up 10% from last year. Many of these calls are coming from Emergency Department physicians caring for these children after an accidental exposures of edible cannabis products. Most of these ingestions result in significant effects and require hospital admission. Young children, particularly those five and under, can have prolonged neurologic and respiratory depression that requires intubation (placement on a breathing machine) and intensive care unit admission.

The poison center also urges caution with over-the-counter unregulated cannabis products such as delta-8 and delta-10. These products can have highly intoxicating properties and do not fall under Arizona’s Smart and Safe Act regarding cannabis (THC) packaging and monitoring requirements. Therefore products can look like candy and are appealing to young children. Poison centers across the nation are warning of these products and the dangers they pose, particularly to children.

"It is important to keep all products locked up and out of sight,” said Maureen Roland, RN, Director at the Banner Poison and Drug Information Center serving Maricopa County. “If your child unintentionally eats a marijuana or THC edible, try to find out what and how much they ate. Look at the edible's wrapper or packaging and call the free, 24/7 poison control helpline — 1-800-222-1222 — as soon as possible for help."

Jamal Givens, the President and CEO of LPKNC said the problem is also showing up at school. He’s focused on preventing substance misuse in kids.

“We worked with the youth to go to City Council here in Tucson, Arizona, to regulate smoke shops,” Givens said. “The work that we could do was, ended up figuring out how to increase the distance between smoke shops and then also increase the distance from schools and other educational facilities."

Givens is working to create those same regulations statewide.

Experts urge parents to check the packaging and always keep THC products out of the reach of children.