Unintentional marijuana exposures up in Colorado kids
May 28th, 2013
02:21 PM ET

Unintentional marijuana exposures up in Colorado kids

The state of Colorado is seeing an increase in the number of children accidentally exposed to medical marijuana, according to a new study in Pediatric JAMA.

Doctors in Colorado evaluated about 1,400 patients aged 8 months to 12 years who came to the Children's Hospital Colorado emergency room from January 1, 2005 to December 31, 2011.

"We compared in Colorado the number of kids we saw with marijuana exposures before the 2009 Department of Justice (DOJ) edict that they were not going to pursue users of medical marijuana as long as they were compliant with state laws," said Dr. Genie Roosevelt of Denver Health Medical Center and one of the study authors. "We found we didn't see marijuana exposure prior to the DOJ edict, but afterwards when medical marijuana was decriminalized in Colorado, we saw a significant increase in medical marijuana exposures in children."

Before September 2009, 790 children were evaluated for unintentional ingestion. Their median age was 2.6 years and none of them tested positive. After October 2009, another 588 children, with a median age of just older than 2 , were evaluated. Of those, 14 tested positive for marijuana.

Urine tests were used to confirm marijuana ingestion. Eight of those 14 patients were exposed to medical marijuana, 7 of them exposed to food products like cookies, brownies, drinks and candy. According to study authors, in most cases, the marijuana came from grandparents.

Symptoms included lethargy, ataxia - a lack of muscle coordination that can affect speech, eye movements, the ability to swallow, walk, or pick things up - and breathing problems. Eight of the 14 children were admitted, two of them to the intensive care unit.

Researchers say the DOJ policy resulted in a sharp increase in the number of patients filing for medical marijuana cards, called red cards in Colorado. In 2009, 60,000 cards were issued, compared to 2,000 during the previous eight years.

Colorado legalized medical marijuana in 2000 and last November, along with Washington, passed amendments legalizing marijuana for recreational use.

"The impact of the potential exposure of young children to marijuana has to be considered as we move forward with decriminalizing and legalizing marijuana," Roosevelt said. "Medical marijuana should be considered like any other medication in the home and I think there should be child-resistant containers and parents need to see warning labels attached to medical marijuana or marijuana products. It's just as dangerous as high blood pressure medicine and just as dangerous as diabetes medication, so I think we need to educate parents about the dangers of medical marijuana in young children."

Currently, 18 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws legalizing medical marijuana at the local level.

Today's marijuana can be a lot stronger and contain higher concentrations of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, said Dr. George Wang, lead author of the study and clinical instructor in pediatrics at Children’s Hospital Colorado.

“Before the marijuana boom, these kinds of edibles were not mass-produced and the amount of THC ingested was somewhat limited, but now we are seeing much higher strength marijuana,” Wang said.   “We need to educate marijuana users, the community and medical professionals about the potential dangers."

soundoff (654 Responses)
  1. Professor

    So which is it- marijuana has no medical value or marijuana is just like other medicines that need child safety caps?

    Read between the line here! "Grandparents" are the main source of medical marijuana exposure?

    How about a truthful headline instead like: "Neurotic parents determined to get back at their parents or in laws flood emergency rooms." There is no danger in the case of accidental exposure. None at all- unless you want to count choking on the brownies. There MAY be issues with repeated exposures in young kids so it is not a good idea! But it is also NOT an emergency.

    May 28, 2013 at 14:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dmitry

      In reading between the lines, of what professor has wrote, it kinda says that children's exposure to controlled substances is not a major issue. Legal or illegal, keep drugs it away from kids.

      May 28, 2013 at 15:22 | Report abuse |
    • Marianne

      I really would like to know how they determined this "exposure" came from mostly "grandparents", and how they determined the "exposure" came from "brownies, cookies", etc?? What a bunch of total BULL!!

      And what were these children brought to emergency for in the first place? were they hallucinating? were they vomiting? And why would all children brought to the emergency room be TESTED AT ALL FOR DRUGS? Do they test EVERYONE coming through emergency for ILLICIT drug use? If a kid has a bad cold or the flu.......they are testng them for "exposure to marijuana"?? WTH?? "Exposure" to second hand smoke?? They have no idea what they are talking about.

      And lastly.....how do they know these children were exposed to "medical marijuana"? Did the parents/grandparents tell them this? Yeah, right!!

      May 30, 2013 at 11:32 | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      Children are not admitted to the ICU for the hell of it.

      June 4, 2013 at 11:00 | Report abuse |
  2. vikingwoman

    Logic should inform any1 using weed that you have to keep it away from kids! Just as we do cigarette smoke & alcohol or any kind of legal meds! Also, since I'm sure just as many people toked before the law as after, the difference is the legalization! I guess people feel they don't need to hide the joints anymore! That's where the education comes in, for those that can't grasp that a baby shouldn't be exposed to any smoke or mind altering substance! It's for adults only & even some of them shouldn't use it! Especially alcohol! But that's another story!!

    May 28, 2013 at 16:12 | Report abuse | Reply
    • P.R.

      Logic? In America? What's that...

      May 29, 2013 at 07:26 | Report abuse |
  3. Rachel

    Eight of the 14 children were admitted, two of them to the intensive care unit.

    This is the line that gets me...since when did exposure to pot require admittance to the ICU??? I am not saying that this is bad reporting...but this is kinda crappy reporting. They state that prior to 2009 there were only 790 cases EVALUATED EVER that doesnt say 790 were EXPOSED and 588 were EVALUATED since 2009 and only 14 tested positive. So since 2009 14 kids have tested positive for pot but they never say how many tested positive before 2009?? I am sorry but 14 sounds realllllly low to me concidering I could count like 20 kids right off the bat that I know in our town would probably test positive and pot is entirely illegal in Arkansas....sounds like some ant hills are being made into mountains here if you ask me!

    May 29, 2013 at 00:49 | Report abuse | Reply
    • gravalakota

      Those kids were probably transfered to the ICU either 1) because the doctor wasn't informed that the kid had cannabis, or 2) (and this is more likely), the hospital was looking for additional billings to the insurance company. Healthcare is so broken, they don't even know what it costs to deliver service. All of their "costs" are based on reimbursement, not what it actually costs. No other business runs like this (or is less understood by the masses).

      May 29, 2013 at 10:28 | Report abuse |
  4. Clary

    children are exposed to hazardous chemicals in the air, our drinking water and food, as well exposures in their indoor environments – including schools and day-care centers – and through contaminated lands. but lets point the middle finger at marijuana exposure....Really?? what a joke but hey thanks for playing and now a word from our sponsors ........

    May 29, 2013 at 00:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tray

      Thank you!

      May 29, 2013 at 01:15 | Report abuse |
    • Marianne

      Children everywhere are exposed DAILY to the stupidity and gullibility of parents everywhere. Especially those who buy into the utter B.S. of this "study".

      May 30, 2013 at 11:39 | Report abuse |
  5. Tray

    http://www.marijuanarelateddeaths.com/ Please stop these rediculous attacks aimed at marijuana. Find something better to report about, will you?

    May 29, 2013 at 01:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. ali pinn

    how on earth they legalized that thing w/o first researching the possible danger effect of high concentrated THC content of marijuana to these people?! dang!!!

    May 29, 2013 at 01:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Buzzby

      In 5,000 years of recorded medicinal and recreational use, the number of fatalities from ingesting cannabis remains at zero. It's safer than aspirin. It's safer than water! Too much water can kill you. Too much cannabis results in a nap, after which one feels just fine.

      May 29, 2013 at 11:07 | Report abuse |
  7. David

    Accidental? Unintentional? One wonders if those are the most relevant adjectives to use.

    May 29, 2013 at 02:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Mage

    Sorry old people that are worried the weed is stronger than when you went to college. It is still just weed. We still don't believe your reefer madness bs. Lucky it wasn't ANY other drug. Now go have a Valium and a highball

    May 29, 2013 at 03:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. malcolmkyle

    Marijuana has never, ever, directly killed anybody (not even small children) through ingestion.

    FDA approved Prescription drugs kill some 200,000 Americans (including children) every year.

    "An estimated 770,000 people are injured or die each year in hospitals from adverse drug events (ADEs) defined as an injury resulting from medical intervention related to a drug.

    * The number of deaths from drug poisonings in the U.S. has increased sixfold since 1980.

    Fully 40% of these deaths in 2008 involved the use of prescription opioid pain relievers such as codeine, fentanyl, hydrocodone, morphine, and oxycodone, (was 25% in 1999) – In 2008.

    * PRESCRIPTION PAINKILLERS: drugs like oxycodone and hydrocodone, the main ingredients in Oxycontin and Vicodin, landed 305,885 Americans in emergency rooms in 2008 - more than double the 144,644 visits in 2004, (2010 study by Samsha and the CDC)

    Overdose deaths involving these opioid pain relievers (oxycodone and hydrocodone; and synthetic narcotics such as fentanyl and propoxyphene) now exceed deaths from heroin and cocaine combined (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
    Prescription drug overdoses have been increasing in the United States over the last decade, and by 2008 had reached 36,450 deaths—almost as many as from motor vehicle crashes (39,973).

    May 29, 2013 at 05:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • P.R.


      May 29, 2013 at 07:24 | Report abuse |
    • Sujee

      Chemo Therapy, other Cancer treatment drugs, and radio therapy kill millions of people all over the world, but Cannabis cures Cancer.

      Why these media always try to find something negative about Cannabis, which is one of the miracle plants that the world has ever gifted with, which can CURE thousands of illnesses.

      June 4, 2013 at 13:52 | Report abuse |
    • Mike the Massacred


      Good call.

      July 22, 2013 at 02:34 | Report abuse |
  10. P.R.

    But, you know, CONTINUING to expose our children to second-hand cigarette smoke, readily available alcoholic beverages, and poorly or completely unsecured handguns is no big deal...so let's not have any article on THOSE subjects. REALLY?????????????

    Let us take the EASY and tired national moralist view that marijuana is summarily evil and then witch hunt for the data to back that up. So tired of this nonsense. Americans are smarter than this, excepting the fact that they continue to believe the lies and then vote along those lines... //sigh//

    May 29, 2013 at 07:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • P.R.

      How could I have forgotten the LEGIONS of prescription opiates and other narcotics easily found in homes all over the country??? As if "child safety" caps really work that well after a certain age. A child, left alone, WILL find a way into that shiny pill bottle...

      May 29, 2013 at 07:25 | Report abuse |
  11. Al

    This sounds more like pot propaganda again. I mean what kind of crap is that??? Lets build it up and then tear it down with false information just like reefer madness.

    May 29, 2013 at 08:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. But

    But the good news is that snack food sales are through the roof!!!!!!!!!

    May 29, 2013 at 10:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Constantine9574288432

    Never smoked a cigarette, but i love smoking weed:) i hear cigarettes are harder to quit than meth:/

    June 1, 2013 at 10:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Constantine9574288432

    My God!!! Thankyou for enlightening me on the sale of munchies But:) because right now i could really go for a snacky-cake, or a box of cheesy poofs, with a little powdered pancake donut suprise:) yum yum

    June 1, 2013 at 11:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Jillian

    Exposure more like bad parenting/grandparenting...

    June 2, 2013 at 21:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. NEWFrameTestamentReli120

    Symptoms included lethargy, ataxia – a lack of muscle coordination that can affect speech, eye movements, the ability to swallow, walk, or pick things up – and breathing problems. -This sounds like a baby being a baby.

    How much you wanna bet the babies loved it?

    June 3, 2013 at 02:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Josh

    Really? You get a kid who accidentally ingested some cannabis and you send him to the ICU?? Utterly ridiculous. Give the kid a bowl of macaroni and cheese, some applesauce, some milk and cookies, a bowl of cereal, and a slice of apple pie and turn on Spongebob for him. Seriously.

    June 3, 2013 at 21:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Causeitsgoodforyou

    The anti-freedom group wants to get the reform to go negative, thats why they start pulling the children card and giving statistics in a way to try and drive a paranoid misconception. Same stuff, different day. Its legally used and people are a lot more likely to take their kids to the doctor if they think they may have been accidentally exposed. They are a lot less likely to try and sieze your children now than before. Looks like the decrim is the better choice still.

    June 4, 2013 at 10:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. omeany

    Please stop trying to legislate morality. Honestly, we all had a great laugh over Reefer Madness now it's time to let people get on with making their own moral choices. This also pertains to abortion rights and gay marriage.

    Most of us were unintentionally exposed to all kinds of things we probably should not have been but this is a part of life that allows us to make choices later on. These choices are ours and should not be forced on us my the conservative morality minority groups that often times can't even live up to their own ideals.

    June 4, 2013 at 12:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. sftommy

    and the unintentional cocaine exposure to Colorado's kids stays the same, might as well ban the dollar bill

    June 4, 2013 at 14:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Potheaded

    Medical Marijuana is a joke. Thousands of people in Mexico are kidnapped, shot, beheaded, enslaved, and otherwise had there lives and communities ruined because of Americans "recreational" and "medical" use of marijuana. Lets see how this plays out in Colorado and how many medical problems it cures verses how many it creates. Time will tell what problems it will create in your society, just like tobacco and alcohol use, it's toll on society will cost billions.

    June 4, 2013 at 21:50 | Report abuse | Reply
    • paulronco

      Medical cannabis isn't the joke, the War on Drugs is.

      June 11, 2013 at 01:39 | Report abuse |
    • Mike the Massacred

      What??? Mexico doesn't distribute medical marijuana. It deals in swag grown in sup-par dirt. Medical marijuana is grown in America, by Americans, in highly controlled environments.

      July 22, 2013 at 02:40 | Report abuse |
  22. paulronco

    "It's just as dangerous as high blood pressure medicine and just as dangerous as diabetes medication..." said Dr. Genie Roosevelt of Denver Health Medical Center and one of the study authors.

    This is simply false. Cannabis might completely zonk them out, but it can't kill them.

    June 11, 2013 at 01:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • j

      They were probably talking about the medical marijuana, created by government goonies, which isn't actually safe, like the marijuana that nature created. Israel is genetically modifying marijuana for the U.S. pharmaceutical industries. Why would they do that? Because keeping other people sick is how they gain wealth and power.

      March 19, 2018 at 22:56 | Report abuse |
  23. bodofinglok

    I am tempted to point out that anybody who would bring a kid in for this in the first place would have likely caused the vast majority of the issue by simply freaking the kid out... Put on some music maybe?

    June 11, 2013 at 22:49 | Report abuse | Reply

    ...another 588 children, with a median age of just older than 2 , were evaluated. Of those, 14 tested positive for marijuana...

    ...Urine tests were used to confirm marijuana ingestion. Eight of those 14 patients were exposed to medical marijuana, 7 of them exposed to food products like cookies, brownies, drinks and candy. According to study authors, in most cases, the marijuana came from grandparents...

    15/588 = 2% and obviously they were accidental ingestion of a mistaken cookie or brownie. How many kids are brought in for swallowing pills that think they are candy? Why don't you just admit you are wrong

    August 10, 2013 at 00:30 | Report abuse | Reply
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