The path to marijuana legalization was forged by people who viewed the prohibition of recreational weed to be as ineffective as that of alcohol, and in 2012, they successfully persuaded Washington voters to do the same.
But in the years our state has been a legal pot zone, it hasn’t been sensitive to child safety. Booze, cigarettes and other potentially harmful products carry consumer warnings, but edible marijuana, the most commonly used illicit drug, has not.
A sticker of a red hand, the universal sign for stop, and the phone number of the Washington Poison Center, which offers free and confidential services around the clock, will now be featured on packaging.
One could argue the label should be larger, more visible on packages. One also could argue it shouldn’t have taken a law to compel producers to put warnings on candy with potent drugs inside — especially a drug classified by the federal government as Schedule 1, which means it shares the same status as heroin, LSD and methamphetamines.
The arguments for or against keeping marijuana on the federal bad list are hotly debated, but in the meantime, tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, marijuana’s psychoactive compound, is available in the form of gummy bears, fruit chews and lollipops.
There’s only one group of folks who like such treats more than stoners, and that’s kids. Never underestimate the power of a child to get his hands on sweets. Refrigerators get scaled, drawers emptied. The DEA could take lessons from kids when it comes to sniffing out the good stuff.
The red hand may not be as effective as a Mr. Yuk sticker, but the “Not for kids” label should remind parents of marijuana’s potency. A snack that boasts of a big “psychoactive punch” in every bite, like a gummy leaf we found in an online advertisement Tuesday, could have serious consequences for a child.
Most edible marijuana packages contain 100 milligrams of THC or more, enough mellowing agent to put a 200-pound man on the sofa and keep him there for hours. That same amount of candy could cause clinical toxicity in a young child.
THC affects the central nervous system; a young child who ingests it might experience nausea, disorientation, anxiety, paranoia, hallucinations and deep sedation. Arti Patel, a health education outreach specialist at the Washington Poison Center, told The News Tribune that marijuana could even cause a fatal overdose.
If parents think their child may have accidentally ingested THC, they should call the Poison Center immediately. In most cases, vomiting and neuropsychiatric symptoms will not require treatment, but medical attention is always warranted.
It’s unclear how many accidental exposures have taken place since marijuana became legal. Health care providers worry parents aren’t reporting accidental ingestion, fearing consequences. The Washington Poison Center reported 290 calls for possible marijuana poisoning in 2016; 20 of those calls were about 2-year-olds.
However well-intended the new labeling law is, strongly worded warnings won’t counteract the effects of negligent parenting. If only that red hand would come alive and slap parents who put their children at risk; poisons, medicines, drugs and alcohol should never be within reach.
To parents who partake of edible marijuana: Think of the kids; don’t be a dope.