Mommy, I have the munchies!
A soaring number of New York youngsters is accidentally getting stoned and in some cases severely sickened by mistakenly ingesting cannabis-laced candies left around by careless adults, after the state expanded its legalization of marijuana.
Stony Brook University Hospital on Long Island reports that the number of children it has seen with prolonged or serious toxic exposure after swallowing marijuana-laced edibles such as gummies nearly tripled from five cases in 2020 to 14 cases in 2021 and 13 cases last year.
There were only four cases combined from 2017 through 2019, said Dr. Candice Foy, a pediatrician at SUNY Stony Brook Children’s Hospital.
“Kids are excited to get candy,” Foy said. “We had a grandma who passed a cannabis edible to a child by mistake.”
New York legalized marijuana for adult use in 2021, and a huge illicit market of smoke shops has emerged as well.
Toddlers and other youngsters who ingest the edibles can experience symptoms such as passing out or sudden sleepiness, slurred speech, difficulty walking or lack of coordination, lethargy, dry mouth, dilated pupils, red eye, rapid heart beat and vomiting.
In the worst cases, kids have required intubation for troubled breathing or IV treatment for dehydration, Foy said.
The cases involve kids ages 1 to 11, according to Stony Brook’s analysis conducted by Foye, Dr. Annamarie Fernandes and medical student Cassie Wang.
Children who can find or reach THC-infused colored edibles believe they’re eating regular candy, medical experts warned. THC is the active ingredient in weed.
It doesn’t take much cannabis to make a small child sick, they added.
A toddler weighing 30 pounds and eating just 2.5 milligrams — a fraction of the typical 10-mg edible — would exceed the toxic threshold to become ill, experts said.
Toddlers and young children have found cannabis candy in purses, cabinets and even in the refrigerator or freezer, the doctor said.
“A kid looking for an ice pop found cannabis in the freezer,” she said.
Foy said a majority of the cases at Stony Brook involved cannabis gummies but also pot-laced brownies and a THC-infused chocolate bar.
Under state law, doctors are required to notify child protective services of suspected cases of parental neglect or child abuse, which includes kids admitted to the hospital for ingesting marijuana.
“A lot of times it’s a mistake made by a good parent,” Foy said.
The Stony Brook findings mirror a rattling study of kids sickened by cannabis exposure in Colorado and published in the Journal of Pediatrics. Colorado was one of the first states to legalize marijuana for recreational use in 2012.
Researchers at the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Safety in Denver reviewed hospital records for kids under 6 who consumed weed gummies from Jan. 1, 2015, to Oct. 25, 2022.
The study found 151 cases where kids consumed edible cannabis, and 53% of them met the criteria for “harmful exposure.” Kids in the study on average were 3 years old, and the typical amount of THC ingested was 2.1 mg.
New York rules approved last year require that cannabis edibles be placed in child-resistant packaging.
Foy said the packaging has become more child-proof but added, “Cannabis edibles are something that should be under lock and key.
“Edibles shouldn’t be in the kitchen.”
Parents concerned about whether they’re kids are sickened by cannabis can call the Poison Center Hotline at 800 222-1222 for immediate medical advice pending a trip to the emergency room.
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