Poison Center Calls Increase in States With Decriminalized Marijuana

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With public opinion shifting on the issue of marijuana and some states already beginning to legalize the drug, it now seems inevitable that weed is destined to become a major industry in the U.S. Along with legitimization, however, will come a flood of regulations maintaining the sale and consumption of marijuana.

A new study published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine is already shining a light on some of the consequences that could come from a more accepting stance toward marijuana. The study has found that in states where marijuana has been decriminalized, poison control center call rates have increased. Calls to poison control centers in such states were observed to increase by more than 30% between 2005 and 2011 in contrast to other states where control center calls remained steady.

The calls aren't coming from parents who have simply caught their teens smoking, however. The study's authors instead believe that the greater availability of marijuana-infused foodstuffs in decriminalized states could be contributing the the call volume increase.

"We believe that high-dose edible products - such as candies, cookies, and chocolates - may have played a significant role in the increased rate of reported exposure chiefly because kids can't distinguish between products that contain marijuana and those that don't," said Dr. George Sam Wang lead author of the study and a researcher at the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center. "These edible products may be attractive to children and tend to contain higher concentrations of the active ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol."

So, it could be that children are unknowingly ingesting their parents' pot brownies and exhibiting odd behavior, prompting calls to poison control and emergency room visits.

Luckily it doesn't appear that marijuana is actually poisonous. According to the study, the most common treatment for high children was IV fluids and no deaths were reported.

Even though the cases were not fatal, the study's authors still see the increased call volumes as a sign that more regulation may be needed for the burgeoning marijuana industry. Wang suggests that warning labels, child-resistant packaging, and public education may be necessary in the coming years.

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