Dramatic Increase In Young Children Accidentally Exposed To Pot

Dr. Gary Smith MD, DrPH Center for Injury Research and Policy Nationwide Children's Hospital Columbus, OhioMedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dr. Gary Smith MD, DrPH

Center for Injury Research and Policy
Nationwide Children’s Hospital
Columbus, Ohio

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Smith: As of January 2015, 23 states and Washington D.C. have legalized marijuana for medical use. Four of those same states and Washington D.C. have also voted to legalize marijuana for recreational use. The debate about legalization often focuses on health effects among adults, economic benefits, and crime rates. Lost in the discussion is the potential harm to young children from unintentional exposure to marijuana.

The study found that the rate of marijuana exposure among children 5 years of age and younger rose 147.5 percent from 2006 through 2013 across the United States. The rate increased almost 610 percent during the same period in states that legalized marijuana for medical use before 2000.

In states that legalized marijuana from 2000 through 2013, the rate increased almost 16 percent per year after legalization, with a particular jump in the year that marijuana was legalized. Even states that had not legalized marijuana by 2013 saw a rise of 63 percent in the rate of marijuana exposures among young children from 2000 through 2013.

Most children were exposed when they swallowed marijuana – that may be related to the popularity of marijuana brownies, cookies and other foods.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Smith: Marijuana exposure among young children is a growing problem. Most exposures resulted in minor clinical effects, but some children experience coma, respiratory depression, or seizures. Health care providers need to inform parents and other child caregivers of the hazard, and talk to them about proper storage if marijuana is in the household.

The same precautions used to protect children from medicines and dangerous household chemicals need to be used with marijuana products – for example, keeping the products in child-resistant, opaque containers and storing products up, away and out of sight of children, preferably in a locked cabinet.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Smith: Future research should be done to evaluate the effect of the safety requirements included in marijuana legalization laws. Are additional child protections needed? What is the most effective way to enforce child safety provisions? Study of future trends in marijuana exposure among children should be done to continue to inform public policy and child safety efforts.


Bridget Onders, Marcel J. Casavant, Henry A. Spiller, Thiphalak Chounthirath, and Gary A. Smith. Marijuana Exposure Among Children Younger Than Six Years in the United States. CLIN PEDIATR, June 7, 2015 DOI: 10.1177/0009922815589912

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Dr. Gary Smith MD, DrPH, Center for Injury Research and Policy, Nationwide Children’s Hospital,  Columbus, Ohio (2015). Dramatic Increase In Young Children Accidentally Exposed To Pot

Last Updated on June 15, 2015 by Marie Benz MD FAAD