States where marijuana has been legalized grappling with danger of marijuana around children.
Florida children who go door to door for candy on Halloween may one day be at risk of receiving edible marijuana products if Amendment 2 comes to pass. This scary scenario isn’t the plot of an upcoming horror movie. According to medical and law enforcement officials, it’s a very real scenario playing out in states like California, Washington State and Colorado, where marijuana has been legalized.
“Allowing edible marijuana products to fall into the hands of kids is an unintended consequence of not only legalized marijuana use but also highly unregulated marijuana use,” said Dr. Alexander Garrard, Clinical Managing Director of the Washington Poison Control Center. “One of the major factors why we’ve had a spike in exposures is due to the lack of tight regulation in Washington State.”
VIDEO: Halloween Marijuana Edibles Warning
Florida’s proposed Amendment 2 could create the same dangers. It mandates that marijuana treatment centers be allowed to deal in food products containing marijuana, so lawmakers could not ban the sale of marijuana edibles that are attractive to children such as candies, cookies, and brownies. Any attempt by lawmakers to restrict marketing and sales of marijuana edibles is likely to be attacked and invalidated in court as unreasonable or not consistent with the right that Amendment 2 expressly creates.
“Edible marijuana products pose substantial challenges for law enforcement officers as we have seen in states where voters have legalized marijuana,” said Seminole County Sheriff Don Eslinger, a member of the Don’t Let Florida Go to Pot Coalition. “While parents should always be vigilant about the candy their children receive on Halloween, dealing with edible marijuana adds a new level of concern in states where it is legal. Florida parents do not need one more issue to cause concern.”
According to data presented by Dr. Garrard from the Washington Poison Center’s Toxic Trends Report, state officials have seen an increase in adult and pediatric marijuana exposures in 2014 that has surpassed all reported exposures in 2013 alone. Washington State legalized marijuana as “medicine” in 1998 and for so-called recreational purposes in 2012. Dr. Garrard has warned, “The increasing availability of marijuana edibles and lack of child-resistant packaging may ultimately contribute to a further increasing trend in pediatric exposures.”
Of the reported cases of pediatric marijuana exposures in Washington State, an alarming 27 percent were cases involving children from 1 to 3 years old. Fifty-three percent were teens aged 13 to 19 years old. The cases reported by the Washington Poison Center are only those reported voluntarily.
Like in Washington State, officials in Colorado are urging caution over the use of edible marijuana products. Recent published reports have detailed an explosion of marijuana edibles that look like harmless candy treats flooding markets and unfortunately kitchen pantries. A May report in USA Today detailed the account of one individual, who consumed a marijuana edible and became “intensely sick and lost control of his body. By 90 minutes, he was hyperventilating, freaking out and heading to the emergency room.” The report also notes that Colorado lawmakers have been rushing to tighten state regulations. In the absence of these regulations, there have been two deaths and reported instances of “bizarre behavior as consumers eat powerful pot-infused food.”
“Drug dependency and addiction can begin as individuals are exposed to substances early in life,” said Ben Cort, Director of Professional Relations at the University of Colorado Hospital Center for Dependency, Addiction, and Rehabilitation. “Allowing these drugs to end up within reach of children is simply a disaster waiting to happen.”
To prepare for the first Halloween since marijuana has been made widely available in Colorado, Denver police officials have issued a warning as parents are finding it increasingly difficult to differentiate between real candy and candy laced with pot. Edible marijuana products are known to use similar names as name brand products such as “Krondike Bars,” “Kif Kat bars,” “Jolly Jems,” and others.
“The challenges presented by legalizing marijuana have been widely noted across the country,” said drug policy expert and Drug Free America Foundation Executive Director Calvina Fay. “If you are a parent of a child, you should be aware that Amendment 2 will open the floodgates and expose our children to an enormous risk in the form of edible marijuana.”
The Don’t Let Florida Go to Pot coalition is a statewide public information campaign including elected officials such as former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, House Speaker Will Weatherford and organizations such as the Florida Medical Association, Florida Sheriffs Association, Florida Chamber of Commerce, Associated Builders and Contractors of Florida, and the Florida Trucking Association. The coalition is a collective effort of local and state organizations working together to educate Floridians on the dangers of marijuana and efforts to allow marijuana for supposed medical uses in Florida. It is conducting an educational campaign on problems it sees with Amendment 2 which will be on the Florida ballot in November.