The time has come once again to reiterate one of the most important facts about cannabis consumption in the US, no one is trying to give your children edibles for Halloween.

Edibles, whether they are medical marijuana, delta-8, delta-10, or even those obtained in less than legal methods aren’t cheap. The expense alone would dissuade almost any individual from giving away their stash. Additionally, in the case of legal medical marijuana, each of those edibles counts toward your allotment – no one is wasting their legal limit buying treats to get the neighborhood kids giggly.

In fact, there has yet to be a single recorded incident of someone contaminating Halloween candy with the purpose of harming neighborhood trick-or-treaters. 

The most popular reference point for the urban legend is a 1974 incident, in Pasadena, Texas, where Ronald O’Bryan poisoned his eight-year-old son, Timothy, with cyanide-laced pixie sticks in efforts to collect life insurance.

Now that we have that out of the way, here is where I may lose some of you.

 

Parents should still be cautious about what children are consuming, accidents and mix-ups happen. While it’s uncommon, it’s not unheard of for a child or young adult to get into a medicated gummy or other infused product, especially those with familiar packaging to young eyes.

Children are far more likely to accidentally consume cannabis products or ingest edibles at home than anywhere else, and there is virtually no possibility of them being purposefully tricked or poisoned by a stranger.

 Empty shell packaging sold in bulk often replicates or copies mainstream products.

Legally speaking, in Missouri, your medicated edibles must be stored in or with the original packaging from the dispensary- if purchased from one – that packaging, per Missouri law,  should be “designed or constructed to be significantly difficult for children under five (5) years of age to open but not normally difficult for adults to use properly.” 

Missouri dispensaries are also required to make available information about potential risks and possible side effects of medical marijuana, including the risk of poisoning and the phone number for the closest poison control center. (1-800-222-1222)

But those same standards don’t apply to hemp-derived products.

Delta-8 products are sold in gas stations and on store shelves, and unlike CBD, Delta-8 or Delta-10 products can definitely set an inexperienced user up for an unpleasant experience, moreso should a child ingest them.

So while we want to dispel stigma and squash the irrational and unfounded claims that local potheads are dosing trick-or-treaters, we must also be pragmatic in how we approach the very real possibility that as cannabis products become more common – there exists an opportunity more mistakes and accidents to occur.

In each state where some form of legalization has occurred, there has been an increase in reports of marijuana toxicity or ingestion in children 12 or under. 

Per the American Association of Poison Control Centers, the number of children under 12 who have ingested edibles at home rose from 132 in 2016 to almost 2,500 in 2020.

In Ohio, poison control center consults for pediatric patients rose 193% from 54 cases in 2019 to 158 cases in 2020.

 An Important note – the number of increasing reports is not specific to children, as the number of cases reported by adults also grows significantly, demonstrated here with data collected by Cincinnati Children’s and  Sheila Goertemoeller, PharmD, DABAT

In Maricopa County, Arizona, for example, there were five reported cases of THC exposure in children in that age group in 2014, through the first half of 2021 there were 90.

According to a report from Dr. Claire McCarthy of Harvard Health, the most common age group involved was 3-5-year-olds, “This is the age where they are old enough for parents to take their eyes off them for a minute or two, but not old enough to understand why they shouldn’t eat that brownie, gummy bear, or piece of chocolate.”

 

Empty shell packaging sold in bulk often replicates or copies popular brands

For most children, eating a cannabis edible will make them sleepy but not lead to lasting effects. Other common effects may include dizziness, loss of balance, rapid heart rate, nausea, fever, confusion, or paranoia. 

Moderate negative experiences are most often akin to a panic attack – it’s not life threatening, but it feels like it, especially to a child.

The effects of the exposures referenced by Dr. McCarthy support the general consensus. With effects in over 80% of cases being considered minor. In 15%  of cases, effects were considered moderate, and in 1.4% the effects were considered severe. In rare cases, significant ingestion has led to trouble breathing and seizures.

While no one has ever died from acute marijuana intoxication, a child accidentally ingesting edibles is going to cause a panic, even if the parents are the only ones panicking. 

 

Legal Delta-8 and Delta-10 products may have familiar looking packagingLegal Delta-8 and Delta-10 products may have familiar looking packaging

 

So how do we address the situation if it arises?

First, remain calm

Try to get as much information as you can: 

What type of edible did your child eat? 
How much was in the package when you last saw it, and how much remains? 
Is there information on the packaging regarding what type of THC it contains?
What is the approximate amount of THC ingested in mgs?
Call the local poison control hotline. (The number is the same everywhere: 800-222-1222.)

Generally speaking, the poison control center will walk you through an assessment. 

Representatives tend to err on the side of caution and may refer you to the emergency room if symptoms seem to be problematic or they aren’t confident.

For those who are able to treat and monitor their child at home, try to create a calm and comforting environment. Be aware that your child may experience THC in a different way than you’re used to, avoid overstimulation and try to help them relax. The most important thing is monitoring.

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