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More Kids Accidentally Eating Marijuana, Colorado Study

Update Date: May 27, 2013 04:04 PM EDT

An increasing number of children in Colorado are accidentally eating marijuana, according to a new study. Researchers found that the number of marijuana accidents among kids skyrocketed following modification of drug enforcement laws of possession of marijuana in the state.

Study author Dr. George Sam Wang, from the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center, Denver, and his team compared the marijuana ingestions by young children who sought care in a children's hospital emergency department before and after the modification of drug enforcement laws in October 2009 regarding medical marijuana possession.

The study included data from a total of 1,378 patients younger than 12 years of age.  The participants were evaluated for unintentional ingestions.  Researchers aid 790 patients were before September 30, 2009 and 588 patients were after October 1, 2009.

"The proportion of ingestion visits in patients younger than 12 years (age range eight months to 12 years) that were related to marijuana exposure increased after September 30, 2009, from 0 of 790 to 14 of 588," researchers wrote in the study published in JAMA Pediatrics

Researchers noted that most of the children were boys and were admitted to or observed in the emergency department.

"Because of a perceived stigma associated with medical marijuana, families may be reluctant to report its use to health care providers. Similar to many accidental medicinal pediatric exposures, the source of the marijuana in most cases was the grandparents who may not have been available during data collection," they added.

Several states have decriminalized medical marijuana, and Colorado and Washington have passed amendments to legalize the recreational use of the drug, and in late 2009, the Justice Department issued a policy that instructed federal authorities not to prosecute medical marijuana users and suppliers if they were complying by state laws.

Researchers said that the latest findings are especially important because medical marijuana products like cookies, brownies, soft drinks and candies contain higher levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active chemical in marijuana.

"Physicians, especially in states that have decriminalized medical marijuana, need to be cognizant of the potential for marijuana exposures and be familiar with the symptoms of marijuana ingestion," researchers explained.

"This unintended outcome may suggest a role for public health interventions in this emerging industry, such as child-resistant containers and warning labels for medical marijuana," they concluded.

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