Utah sees increase in poison control calls involving kids, cannabis

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SALT LAKE CITY -- In the last year, thousands of children across the country were sent to the emergency room because they ate what they thought was candy.

"Edibles" containing marijuana are found everywhere, including in Utah, even if they're illegal in that particular region.

“A young child is not going to be able to tell the difference,” said Barbara Crouch, Executive Director of the Utah Poison Control Center.

The Utah Poison Control Center takes in hundreds of calls each week. This year, a handful of those calls were about toddlers eating treats or gummy candy containing THC, which is the main psychoactive component in marijuana.

“A child is going to see that, and they're not going to know if that's a brownie they are used to their mom making or something that has marijuana in it,” Crouch said.

Doctors say if a child gets hold of these products, they can have nausea, vomiting, disorientation, anxiety-like reactions or worse.

“We have seen very pronounced effects in young children, even requiring mechanical ventilation at least in a couple,” Crouch said.

Utah Poison Control says with calls in regards to children and marijuana, many end up in the hospital.

“When you look at the exposures to marijuana products in kids less than 6 years in age, you're talking about over 50 percent of them require hospitalization and some of them into the pediatric intensive care unit,” Crouch said.

In the last year, poison control facilities across the country reported 4,000 calls regarding kids and teens exposed to marijuana. While states like Oregon and Colorado have a higher call volume, it's still something we're seeing in Utah despite the fact it is illegal.

“We have surrounding states, so it makes sense that we are seeing more cases than we have a couple years ago,” Crouch said.

“Cannabis is here, it's here in our state, what we need to start doing is making sure we have safe systems in place,” said Christine Stenquist, President of TRUCE and candidate for House District 17.

Among the many issues Stenquist is concerned about, she says marijuana is no longer a topic lawmakers can ignore.

“We need community education on it right now," Stenquist said. "We’re dealing with an illegal market and just sort of the leftovers of legal markets that are seeping in because we're not willing to deal with it."

Poison control says, ultimately, the responsibility is on parents. Keep the edibles away from your children, and, if you have an issue, call them. Such calls are free and confidential.