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Cannabis-Infused Candies: A Growing Threat to America’s Youth

As marijuana edibles continue to grow in popularity, so, too, does the risk that edibles pose to children.

A local news station in Vancouver recently reported that pot-infused edibles had been left out in public. While the source of these “samples,” which were left on car windshields, remains unclear, one fact is certain: the edibles appeared to be harmless gummies that children might otherwise find in a grocery store checkout lane.

With so many cannabis-infused edibles now on the market, stories like these have become all-too-common. To a child, the presentation of something like a candy bar or gummi worm does not require a second thought. Candy is candy—and marijuana edibles often appear no different than their unlaced counterparts.

This past December, school safety officials in Massachusetts expressed their fear over children gaining newfound access to marijuana edibles. Many children in the Worcester area were reported to have fallen ill from consuming edibles, or otherwise coming into contact with them on the school grounds.

As many marijuana edibles are not distinguishable from normal treats, like brownies or cookies, children and teens across the United States and Canada can easily ingest something without knowing that it is laced with marijuana.

In the early months of 2018, the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles treated 11 patients who were somehow sickened by marijuana; all but one of those patients were under the age of 18.

As the legalization of marijuana continues across many states, how can we ensure the safety of children who have the potential to be inadvertently sickened by these edibles?

Effects of Marijuana Edibles on Children

Over the past several years, marijuana edibles have become legal in many states—most notably in Colorado, which was the first state to legalize recreational marijuana use.

In Colorado, marijuana edibles now have stricter policies associated with them, largely due to shapes and colors that may unintentionally appeal to children. Any marijuana edible in the shape of a fruit, human, or animal—including the ever-popular gummi bear—is prohibited. All labels must also properly list the level of potency that the edible contains.

As many specific sweets—such as lollipops and gummies—are traditionally marketed to children, the state of Colorado is proceeding with caution, with many accidental ingestion stories populating headlines across the country.

When children consume marijuana edibles, they can experience lethargy and lightheadedness. In more extreme cases, consumption can lead to rapid heartbeat, high blood pressure, and respiratory distress.

These side effects can be serious, and as children could potentially consume large amounts of edibles without understanding what they have consumed, it is incredibly risky to have marijuana edibles present in a home where children live.

Candy and Drugs 

While marijuana edibles and marijuana legalization are at the forefront of national discussion, other drugs have also surfaced in “candy-like” formats. While checking Halloween candy and other treats is a no-brainer, children can quickly be exposed to disguised drugs in an unsupervised setting.

In one story from the greater Atlanta area, pills in the shape of Hello Kitty and Minions were confiscated in a drug bust. The brightly colored pills have the appearance of a children’s vitamin or a sweet and sour candy—easily mistakable by a child. While the substance in this instance was not confirmed, it was suggested that the pills could have been MDMA.

In another story in New York, pills that had the appearance of the popular Sweettarts candies were found to contain a mix of Xanax, fentanyl, and heroin—an extreme danger to any child who could have come into contact with them.

Moving Ahead with Safer Practices in Place

Countless children across the United States will be exposed to drugs in their home at extremely tender ages. With the increased possibility that children will have access to items such as marijuana edibles—we must act swiftly to protect them and ensure that proper safety measures are in place.

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