Marijuana is already legal in Colorado and Washington, and laws continue to be reformed throughout the country. This is good news for the police officers who have previously wasted time cracking down on non-violent pot smokers, as well as for the users over the age of 21 who no longer have to hide their use of a mostly-harmless plant. However, it seems that poison control centers in Washington and Colorado are not receiving such good news as there has been a significant increase in cannabis-related calls.
The number of pot-related calls to poison control in Washington have more than doubled since 2013, jumping from 158 calls to 246 in 2014. Colorado has experienced a similar rise in the number of pot-related calls to poison control, as the number of calls to the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center for marijuana exposure jumped to 151 in 2014, the first year that pot was sold. In 2013 there were only 88 calls and only 61 in 2012, the year pot became legal.
There is no real way to tell whether the rise in pot-related calls to poison control has more to do with people being comfortable enough to report it, or with an increase in its use, as both of these factors could be increasing due to its becoming legal.
What is arguably the biggest problem with the increase marijuana use is the increase in children accidentally eating it. Because cannabis is relatively harmless and contains nothing toxic, people are more relaxed about it. This may lead to people being more likely to accidentally leave it on the counter where a child could get reach it.
Both Washington and Colorado have experienced a rise in the number of calls to poison control reporting the accidental consumption of marijuana by children. In 2014, there were 48 such calls in Washington regarding children 12 and under, and 45 in Colorado regarding children 8 and under. In both cases, these numbers are nearly doubled from previous years.
In Washington, half of the calls resulted in hospital visits. Though most of those patients were discharged from the emergency room, ten of them were taken to intensive care. Half of those cases were people under the age of 20.
If parents did not see their child eat the pot, and were not aware of the cause of their strange symptoms, the child could end up subjected to blood tests and spinal taps as a result of the doctors checking for meningitis and other conditions. Some cases at Seattle Children’s Hospital even resulted in the children being intubated because they were having trouble breathing.
In most cases in Washington, the marijuana that caused the turmoil came from unregulated medical marijuana dispensaries, and not from licensed recreational shops. The unregulated dispensaries may be selling marijuana gummy bears or other items that would appeal to children, while licensed recreational shops are banned from selling such items.
Washington has started limiting what a medical marijuana dispensary can sell, and both Washington and Colorado are enforcing the use of child-resistant packaging in licensed stores to combat these issues.
photo credit: Wikimedia