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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Rise in child ‘pot poisoning’ incidents concerns officials

Reports of kids eating marijuana-infused cookies and candies are on the rise statewide and in Spokane County, where a 4-year-old spent the night in intensive care after eating a product belonging to a parent.

The number of “pot poisonings” is relatively small, but the increase is troubling to public health officials.

Statewide, 14 potential marijuana poisonings were reported among children 19 and younger so far this year, according to the Washington Poison Center. Five of those incidents occurred in Spokane County.

Last year, there were 19 reported incidents of children ingesting marijuana products in Washington, including six in Spokane County.

Most of the ingestions were unintentional. The statistics are a reminder that marijuana edibles – particularly chocolates and candies – look appealing to kids, and should be kept secured or out of homes where children are present, public health officials said.

“The adult dose of marijuana is not meant for young children, who are smaller in size and body weight,” said Paige McGowan, marijuana and tobacco prevention coordinator at the Spokane Regional Health District.

A single serving size of an edible contains about 10 milligrams of THC, the chemical responsible for most of marijuana’s effects.

Symptoms of marijuana intoxication can include sleepiness, seizures, loss of coordination, trouble breathing, psychotic-like symptoms and, in some cases, coma.

Most accidental ingestions by children don’t produce serious illness or result in hospitalizations. But about three-quarters of the children are evaluated at a hospital. And because the symptoms mirror other illnesses, costly medical testing is needed to rule out other problems, McGowan said.

The delay in the onset of symptoms, which usually occur one to four hours after eating or drinking the product, also complicates the diagnosis, she said.

The reported incidents included commercially produced edibles and drinks, as well as home-baked goods, such as marijuana-laced brownies.

At Sativa Sisters, sales people talk to customers about not eating more than a single serving of a marijuana edible, said Cathy Smith, one of the owners of the retail store on Trent Avenue.

There’s not a direct message about keeping products away from children, but she’s receptive to the idea.

Smith said the marijuana edibles and THC-infused drinks come with printed warnings, childproof caps and tear-resistant packaging. But she still hears stories about pets getting into them.

“It’s the heartbreaking part, that people aren’t careful with their products,” Smith said. “They’ll come in and say, ‘My dog ate by my bud.’ That probably wasn’t good for the dog.”