Conversations about the legalization of marijuana are taking place in households all over the country right now, including here in Ohio. Approved medical marijuana products in Ohio include the oil, tincture, capsule or edible form, all of which can be taken by mouth. No matter how you feel about the topic, it’s important for parents to understand what any increased availability of marijuana products can mean for our families.
Marijuana edibles — which are food products that contain marijuana — are one such product that can pose dangers to our children. As a fellow parent, I think it’s critical to understand four main points about these products:
- The way they look
- The amount of drug they contain
- How the drug is absorbed in the body
- The availability of the edibles
Here are four facts you should know as marijuana products continue to become more available in Ohio and around the U.S.:
1. Marijuana food products can look just like regular foods.
In Ohio, packaging of marijuana edibles are prohibited from being attractive to children; they cannot resemble a commercially available candy. But once opened, the product can resemble candy, cookies or brownies. Having these look-alike products in the home increases the risk of kids accidentally being exposed to marijuana.
2. Amount of drug and serving size matters.
Marijuana edibles often contain much higher amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the psychoactive component we associate with marijuana use. One entire piece of candy or cookie may contain 5-6 servings, which could result in an unintentional overdose.
3. Absorption and timing of drug effect make a difference.
Another concern is the way marijuana is absorbed into the body when it is ingested. When marijuana edibles are ingested, the psychotropic effects of the drug are delayed for 30-90 minutes afterward. The maximum or peak effect of the drug is not reached until two to three hours after ingestion, and the effects last on average from four to 12 hours. Someone experimenting with marijuana edibles might not feel the effects as quickly as expected. That could cause the user to eat more of the edible which may lead to overdose.
4. Edibles are readily available.
The availability of edible products in states that have legalized marijuana is widespread. Our poison control center experience tells us that problems arise when these products are removed from their original packaging or kept within sight of children.
These four factors of marijuana edibles — packaging, drug amount, absorption rate, and availability — can all contribute to accidental exposure in young children.
The chance for accidental ingestion of marijuana edibles by kids is very real. The safety of our children should be at the forefront of our minds as we think about the legalization of marijuana products. It is important for parents to understand the potential dangers so we can help keep our kids as safe as possible.
Becoming educated about issues like this helps me start conversations with my kids so I can guide them in making good choices as they grow up. I hope it helps you do the same.
Please do not hesitate to call the Drug and Poison Information Center if you have any questions. We are here to help 24 hours a day at 1-800-222-1222.