How Has Legalized Recreational Marijuana Affected Pediatric Populations?

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Marijuana edibles have proven to be attractive to children
Marijuana edibles have proven to be attractive to children

HealthDay News — In 2014, Colorado and Washington became the first two states to legalize recreational marijuana. Shortly after, a sharp increase occurred in the number of Colorado children younger than 10 who became ill after being exposed to marijuana, according to a study published online July 25 in JAMA Pediatrics.

Researchers analyzed admissions to Children's Hospital Colorado and Poison Control Center reports between 2009 and 2015. The team identified 81 children treated at the hospital and 163 marijuana exposure calls to poison control. Average age was 2.4 years, and most children spent about 11 hours at the hospital following their marijuana exposure.

The average rate of marijuana-related visits to Children's Hospital Colorado in Aurora nearly doubled following legalization. The rate two years after legalization was 2.3 children per 100,000 population, compared with 1.2 per 100,000 population two years prior to legalization. The regional Poison Control Center that serves Colorado also saw a more than five-fold increase in reported cases of children made ill from marijuana – from nine in 2009 to 47 last year, the researchers found. And the average increase in calls to poison centers statewide was nearly twice that of the rest of the country.

Edible products – cannabis-laced brownies, cookies, candy and the like – were responsible for about half of these cases, senior author Genie Roosevelt, MD, MPH, a pediatric emergency medicine specialist with the Denver Health and Hospital Authority, told HealthDay. Parents were the most frequent source of the marijuana, the investigators found, along with grandparents, neighbors, friends, babysitters, and other family members.

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