Young Children and Cannabis

Young Children and Cannabis – A Bad Combination

The following information is courtesy of the New Jersey Poison Control Center.

For the fourth year in a row, the NJ Poison Control Center has seen an increase in calls concerning children who accidentally consumed cannabis (marijuana, THC) edibles. Last year (2021), the NJ Poison Control Center assisted in the medical treatment of more than 150 children who were accidentally exposed to cannabis edibles — nearly 100 children 5-years-old and younger; more than 55 children between the ages of 6 and 12. According to Dr. Bruce Ruck, Watchung Board of Health President and Managing Director of the Poison Control Center, calls in 2022 are on track to exceed 2021.

Although many people believe cannabis (marijuana, THC) is safe in any amount, consuming too much cannabis can lead to unwanted physical and mental side effects ranging in severity/seriousness.  When compared to smoking cannabis, the effects of edibles are often delayed leaving people to consume more than they intended.  Unlike adults, children who ingest edibles are at a much higher risk for severe health effects and even fatal outcomes from cannabis.  These effects can include trouble breathing, loss of coordination, drowsiness, and seizures.  In severe cases, children may need to be admitted to an intensive care unit (ICU).

“Since edibles may be highly concentrated, limit the number of edibles you have at home if you live with young and school-aged children,” says Lewis Nelson, chair of Emergency Medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.  “Many edible products look and taste like store-bought treats and other food products, making it difficult for children to know the difference.  Although edibles like brownies, gummies, and lollipops can be fun and/or therapeutic for adults, high levels of THC (the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana), can lead to dangerous overdose symptoms in children.”

When using or storing marijuana products in the home, remember the following tips to prevent an accidental exposure:

  • Store edible products in a secure/locked place, out of sight and reach of children and pets.
  • Cannabis products can also cause severe and potentially fatal health effects in pets. 
  • Limit the amount/number of edible products you have in the house at one time. 
  • Be aware of the potency (concentration of THC) of the edibles you have at home. 
  • The effects of edible cannabis may be delayed compared to smoking cannabis. 
  • Only purchase products containing cannabis from licensed, reputable sources.

If you think someone consumed too much cannabis, contact your local poison control center immediately for medical treatment advice.  Poison control centers are a medical resource for both the public and health professionals.  

Get help 24/7 Call 1-800-222-1222

If someone is not breathing, hard to wake up or having a seizure, call 9-1-1