December 1, 2021

Center: Children eating pot-laced candies

Associated Press

This image shows gummy candy that is laced with marijuana. The Upstate New York Poison Center earlier this week reported a spike in calls for marijuana consumption, particularly among children 5 and younger.

A Syracuse-based poison control center has seen a spike in reports of children eating marijuana-laced candies and edibles, and greater Cortland area emergency responders are preparing to deal with it.

The Upstate New York Poison Center said earlier this week that calls have tripled for marijuana consumption, particularly among children 5 and younger, between January and May.

Although local fire and police departments have not received calls, Homer Police Chief Robert Pitman said police and fire departments have been warned that edibles are coming into the state in the form of candy and cookies.

The state legislature approved a bill March 30 legalizing marijuana for adults 21 and older, a bill Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law a day later. The law allows adults to possess up to 3 ounces and store up to 5 pounds, although legal sales won’t be allowed until at least 2022. It creates the potential for a $4.2 billion industry, but comes with some risk.

“We worry about young children and the frightening reaction they can have to marijuana — these edibles come in bright colored packaging that look just like popular candy products,” said Dr. Christine Stork, clinical director of the poison center, which operates at SUNY Upstate Medical University.

One edible — a gummy or a cookie — usually has one dose but the dosage varies based on distributor, Stork said. Often, children can’t read the packaging and will eat several edibles, leading to a non-fatal overdose.

“A lot of it is accidental,” Pitman said. “It looks like candy and kids are taking it inadvertently.”

Signs of OD in children
Call poison control immediately if your child ingested marijuana or is experiencing any of these symptoms, 1-800-222-1222.
• Low blood pressure.
• Severe tiredness.
• Altered behavior.
• Trouble breathing.
• Coma.
— SOURCE: Upstate New York Poison Control Center

Because children are smaller in size and weight, symptoms can be more severe and always require a trip to a healthcare facility, the poison center reports. If parents, guardians or caretakers don’t see the ingestion take place, severe tiredness, trouble breathing and altered behavior can be signs of ingestion.

“Our overdose training deals specifically with on-scene treatment of opioid overdoses in terms of use of Narcan,” said Cortland police Lt. Michael Strangeway. “With legalization, I bet it’s something we will run into.”

“However it is they’re getting exposed, the understanding that these can be very toxic in children is partially the problem,” Stork said. “No one would ever leave out their toxic medication for their kid to get into – they should be kept in a safe, locked place and not around small children.”

One gummy is often too much for a child, Stork said. And treatment can involve supportive therapies, like hospitalization, breathing tubes and life support in severe cases.

“If they see you eating it, they think it’s edible,” Stork said. “Kids mimic a lot of what their
parents or caregivers do.”

Contacting poison control is confidential, and advised for any marijuana ingestion, Stork said.