No pot for tots: Child safety advocate warns of dangers of marijuana ingestion

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For National Poison Prevention Week, March 17-23, the Saskatchewan Prevention Institute is cautioning parents to be aware of what their little ones could get into — including their marijuana.

Marijuana has the potential to be dangerous to children if ingested because of their size and weight. Marijuana-laced edibles pose a risk because they can look and taste like their unlaced counterparts. Children could eat a large amount quickly and become ill as a result.  

“The danger with (edibles) is that we don’t know how much THC is in them,” said Dr. Simon Kapaj, a medical health officer with the Saskatchewan Health Authority. “That can be a … concern because children are more sensitive to this harmful substance.”

Kapaj added that children might eat more than one candy or chocolate, which could lead to the amount of THC ingested poisoning the child. In serious cases, marijuana poisoning in children can cause respiratory problems, impaired motor skills and seizures. 

Cara Zukewich, child injury prevention coordinator with the Saskatchewan Prevention Institute, said children’s natural curiosity could get them into trouble. Just tucking marijuana products away somewhere out of reach isn’t enough.

“Their abilities and motor skills are changing quickly and they will climb,” Zukewich said in an email. “They will quickly get into a cupboard, so it’s important to use cabinet locks.” 

Despite concerns that marijuana poisoning in children would increase after legalization, the Saskatchewan Poison Centre didn’t note a spike in calls related to marijuana.  

About 70 of the 8,900 calls received from the public and health care professionals in 2018 were related to marijuana. More than half of those were made pre-legalization. Ten were related to children ages five and under — the same number as in 2017.  

With marijuana-laced edibles set to be legalized this fall, Health Canada released a drafted regulatory framework for edibles extracts and topicals in December. It includes caps on the amount of THC. No package of edibles will be permitted to contain more than 10 milligrams.

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