Marijuana Legalization: The Unexpected ER Visit Parents are Having to Make

Although marijuana has recently been decriminalized in a number of states, the effect of these policies remains largely unknown. One study, reported in the July 2013 issue of The Journal of American Medical Association, examined the number of marijuana-associated visits by young children at a Denver hospital both before and after Colorado’s legalization of medical marijuana in October 2009. The study looked at hospital cases from January 2005 to December 2011 and found an increase of unintentional marijuana ingestion among children younger than 12.

Prior to October 2009, there were no hospital visits recorded of young children due to marijuana ingestion. Since then, 14 young children have visited the ER following exposure to the drug, 8 of them due to ingesting medical marijuana. Furthermore, 2 of these patients had to be admitted to the ICU.

Colorado’s revised laws have set up a situation where more children are likely to unknowingly ingest brownies, cookies, and other food items that include marijuana as an ingredient. Although Colorado has yet to pass any laws that would restrict children’s access to the drug or establish guidelines for parents using marijuana as medication, doctors strongly urge parents to contact their local poison control if they suspect their child has ingested marijuana–and then take their child immediately to the nearest critical care center or hospital.

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Study: George Wang, Genie Roosevelt, & Kennon Heard. (2013). Pediatric marijuana exposures in a medical marijuana state. JAMA Pediatrics, 1–4. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.140

NYT Article: Anahad O’Connor. Hazards: Medical Marijuana and Children – Online Newspaper. Retrieved June 5, 2013, from

Dr. Hurely,

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