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Reporting a Medication Error

Experts warn parents to treat marijuana edibles like medicine and keep them out of reach of children

Published August 19, 2020

Cannabidiol (CBD) products have flooded the market and are widely available in stores and through online retailers without a prescription. There is growing concerns that some edible marijuana products may be appealing to children because they look like popular brands of candy found in stores.

Review of active ingredients in medical marijuana

The cannabis plant is used for both medical marijuana and recreational marijuana products. The two primary cannabis strains are Cannabis indica and Cannabis sativa. Both strains produce cannabinoids. The two most notable cannabinoids in marijuana are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Cannabis indica typically contains a lower concentration of THC and a higher concentration of CBD; Cannabis sativa typically contains a lower concentration of CBD and a higher concentration of THC.  

Figure 1. Edible marijuana Nerds Rope candy (left) contains 400 mg of THC; compare it to the Nerds Rope candy (right) that is meant for children.

THC affects the mind, behavior, and coordination, causing symptoms similar to intoxication such as euphoria (happiness), relaxation, and memory impairment. The intensity of these effects tends to be dose related, so taking too much marijuana with high levels of THC may make people feel anxious or uncomfortable. Even when taking small doses, symptoms similar to intoxication might cause light-headedness, increasing the risk of falls. THC has been linked to marijuana addiction (cannabis use disorder). On the other hand, CBD does not produce euphoria or lead to marijuana addiction. Initial studies suggest that CBD may help reduce inflammation, pain, nausea and vomiting, anxiety, and seizures from epilepsy.

Figure 2. Other examples of popular children’s candy that are produced in forms that contain THC

Edible products

Medical and recreational marijuana comes in various forms, including:

· Traditional flower (which can be smoked or vaporized)

· Liquids and capsules taken by mouth

· Sublingual drops that are placed under the tongue (often called tinctures)

· Creams and ointments that are applied to the skin

· Edibles (which are highly discouraged for patients with children in the home)

The edible products may look like popular candy found in most stores. However, these edible products contain THC, an ingredient that causes symptoms similar to intoxication such as euphoria, relaxation, and memory impairment. For example, one edible marijuana product resembles the popular Nerds Rope candy but it contains 400 mg of THC (Figure 1). A quick search on the internet brought up a number of other popular edible marijuana products with THC that resemble candy, including Gummy Bears, Jolly Ranchers, and Sour (Stoney) Patch Kids (Figure 2), which could easily attract a young child’s attention. Marijuana chocolate bars, fruity crispy treats, suckers, and baked goods (e.g., brownies, cookies, granola bars) would likewise grab the attention of a young child.

The problem

Various cities across the US have reported concern about children finding and eating their parent’s edible marijuana product. For example, the Philadelphia area recently reported an increase in incidents where children have eaten marijuana candy. This can be an even bigger problem in states where recreational and medical marijuana edibles are legal. Also, with many children at home due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the risk of exposure to edible marijuana products is higher than normal. Increases in

poisonings may be expected for cleaning and disinfection products frequently used during the pandemic. However, surprising increases in accidental ingestion of toys, batteries, plants, medications and vitamins, and edible marijuana products have been reported this year, likely because children are at home.

Children who eat edible marijuana products may start to act funny, have strange movements, or be extra sleepy and difficult to wake up. For example, if a child eats an entire Nerds Rope marijuana candy containing 400 mg of THC, they will become significantly intoxicated. They may stumble and fall, or even lose consciousness.

Here’s what you can do: Edible marijuana products are not recommended for people with children living in the home. If you use edible marijuana products, keep them up and away and out of reach and sight of children, even if children are not living in your home. If you suspect or know a child has eaten an edible marijuana product with THC or has symptoms as described above, immediately bring them to the nearest emergency department. Your child may be sick for a while but will usually recover.

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