Real Halloween horror: Kids eating edible marijuana treats

By The Health News Team | October 27, 2022
Bear-shaped candy

In 2016, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act was approved by California voters, making the recreational use of marijuana, also called cannabis, legal for people ages 21 and older. Soon after, dispensaries opened their doors across the state, offering a variety of marijuana products, from tinctures and sprays to topical balms, marijuana flower and edibles.

Edibles are products that often look like regular candies and desserts, such as gummy bears and cookies. However, these adult treats contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, which can be toxic to children.

During the Halloween season, when kids are excited for extra treats, the possibility of mistaking cannabis edibles for holiday sweets is a real risk. This can be particularly true in households where parents use cannabis products.

“Parents who use cannabis products should do so with caution,” says Dr. Teresa Hardisty, a board-certified pediatrician with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group. “It’s not a good idea to consume infused edibles in front of children, either for medical or recreational purposes. Seeing the products could create temptation for children. And using them can slow down your reaction times, possibly impairing your ability to provide a safe environment.”

The effects of edibles
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, just one edible can contain several times the recommended adult dose of THC. And the consumption of an edible by anyone — especially a child — can lead to overdose. “In some cases, children have had to be hospitalized because of their symptoms,” Dr. Hardisty says.

What’s more, edibles can take up to an hour to affect the user. This can lead people to consume more product to experience the effects of the drug more quickly or because children don’t realize they’re eating a dangerous product.

Effects of THC use and overdose can include:

  • Intoxication

  • Altered perception

  • Anxiety

  • Panic

  • Paranoia

  • Dizziness

  • Weakness

  • Slurred speech

  • Poor coordination

  • Excessive sleepiness

  • Apnea (not breathing for 10 seconds or longer)

  • Heart problems

If there are cannabis edibles in your home, Dr. Hardisty recommends storing them the same way you would store medications and other potentially toxic products. “Put the products in out-of-reach or locked locations,” she says.

Avoid real Halloween horror
When it comes to candy collected on Halloween, Dr. Hardisty says it is always important to inspect what your children have been given when trick-or-treating. Children should be reminded to only accept wrapped and packaged candy.

“Look closely at the packaging,” Dr. Hardisty says. “Some THC-infused edibles can resemble ordinary candy. Most packaging is clearly labeled if the product is infused and has a warning label.”

If you believe your child has eaten a marijuana edible, try to find out what and how much they ate. If available, look at the edible's wrapper to see how much THC it contains.

“You can call the poison control hotline for help,” Dr. Hardisty says. “However, if your child's symptoms are severe, call 911 or go to an emergency room immediately.”

The free, nationwide poison control hotline is available by phone at 1-800-222-1222. You can also receive help online.

If you have concerns about your child’s intentional use of marijuana products, Dr. Hardisty recommends talking with their doctor. They can answer any questions you may have and offer guidance if an additional level of care is needed.

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