Rise in hospital visits by children who have eaten marijuana calls for closer look at possible holes in decriminalization laws of the drug.
Recently, state laws surrounding marijuana use have been rapidly changing and, although marijuana use still remains illegal under federal law, many states are pushing for legalization. Currently legal in Colorado and Washington, states such as Oregon, California, Massachusetts, and Alaska are following suit with voters opting to legalize marijuana for recreational use. While many individuals are in favor of this push for marijuana legalization, others see the potential for serious problems to arise.
Individuals who oppose the legalization of marijuana have pointed out that there is higher-than-average use in Colorado and Washington, which were the first two states to sanction recreational cannabis use. The national average for marijuana use is about 12 percent, while the average for Colorado sits at 19 percent and Washington only slightly lower at 18 percent, both of which are increases from the previous year. Furthermore, both states have been inundated with dangerous products, including things such as marijuana edibles, where it is impossible to determine the THC content or identify other potentially harmful additives.
Hospitals have seen an increase in the number of children who are treated annually for accidental marijuana consumption and are providing reports that more and more teens are needing treatment for marijuana abuse. More specifically, in the beginning of 2014, 14 children in the state of Colorado were hospitalized for accidentally ingesting marijuana, which is a slight increase when compared to 2013 when only 8 children were sent to the hospital. Between 2008 and 2011, the number was even smaller, with only four children requiring this type of emergency care. With a lack of standards for marijuana products, medical professionals do not anticipate seeing a decrease in these numbers anytime soon. For this reason, those who oppose the legalization of marijuana believe that stricter controls and regulations need to be implemented in regards to the distribution of various forms of marijuana, including edibles, because there is currently no set standard for the amount of marijuana that is used in the creation of these products.
Those who are in favor of marijuana legalization are stating that it is completely irresponsible to draw these types of conclusions with less than a year of data. Marijuana research has drawn a variety of conflicting results and has been limited because of the federal ban.
Treatment centers, like Mount Regis Center, believe that, despite the legalization of this substance, it is still important to recognize that marijuana can be a dangerous drug that must be used with caution.
“The legalization of any substance does not eliminate the possibility that overuse will result in harmful effects,” said Bonnie Stewart, LPC, Clinical Director at Mount Regis Center. “The potential for developing an addiction to marijuana remains, and the detrimental consequences that can arise from such an addiction must not be ignored.”