Now that marijuana edibles are legal in Oregon for adults over 21, grown-ups have a special responsibility to keep these potentially tempting treats away from kids.
THC (the chemical in marijuana that causes the high) can be added to almost any type of food, but is most often sold in snack foods: brownies, gummy candy, chocolate bars and cookies. It’s no wonder that a national study published in the Journal of Clinical Toxicology showed a steady rise in the number of calls to poison control centers because of young children who had eaten marijuana products.
Parents should also be aware that they can be held legally responsible when kids sample marijuana. In 2016, a Springfield father was charged with endangering the welfare of a minor after his 5-year-old daughter ate his marijuana candy.
Watch for these signs
It takes very little THC to affect a child, and a single cookie or brownie may contain multiple doses. According to the Oregon Health Authority and JAMA Pediatrics, children who have ingested marijuana may show signs such as:
- Rapid heart rate
- High blood pressure
- Difficulty breathing
“People who are new to edibles also need to realize that there is a lag time before they take effect,” says Kelly Owen, a Salem Health nurse who gives presentations at local schools as part of the Trauma Nurses Talk Tough program.
According to Owen, smoking marijuana gets THC into the body much faster than eating it. With smoking, the peak of the high is often within in five minutes. With edibles, the time to full effect can be 60 to 120 minutes later.
“The long lag time between eating and feeling high is dangerous for kids,” says Owen. “They eat an edible and might not feel anything for a long while, so they eat more. Then when the THC finally kicks in, they have overdosed.”
Tips for childproofing
If you use marijuana products and keep them in your home, the following tips may help keep them out of little hands:
- Store all marijuana products in a locked area that children cannot see or reach.
- Don't use marijuana when kids are around.
- Do not leave homemade edibles on countertops or in the cookie jar.
- Leave commercial products in their packaging. (The Oregon Liquor Control Commission requires all marijuana items, except live plants and seeds, to be sold in child-resistant packages.)
- Make expectations clear — just like alcohol, edibles should be off limits to both kids and teens.
If your child eats a marijuana product, call the Poison Center Hotline as soon as possible at 800-222-1222. If your child is unresponsive or having trouble breathing, call 911 or go to the emergency room right away.