- Marijuana-related calls to U.S. poison control centers have increased in parallel to the boom in marijuana-product popularity, with the number of calls rising from 8,200 in 2017 to over 11,100 in 2019.
- 81% of the calls to poison control were due to use of manufactured products, specifically those with high THC levels, without mixing them with any other substance.
- Edible cannabis products, often mistaken for candy, account for the majority of these calls and raise more concerns due to their consumption by children.
- States where marijuana use has been legalised showed higher call rates; for example, calls about manufactured products were 2.5 per 100,000 people in legalization states as opposed to 1.3 per 100,000 in states where recreational marijuana use is still illegal.
- Potential solutions suggested include implementing stiffer regulations, introducing child-resistant packaging, educating the public on the differences between manufactured products and plant use, promoting consumer responsibility, and keeping these products out of reach of children.
In recent years, the cannabis industry has seen a surge in the development of new products like edibles, concentrates, and vapes. This trend has also led to a notable rise in the number of marijuana-related calls to U.S. poison control centers.
Higher Instances of Calls Related to Marijuana
In 2019, over 11,100 calls were made concerning marijuana use, a substantial growth from approximately 8,200 in 2017. Many of these calls were linked to products containing concentrated amounts of THC, CBD, and other chemicals derived from cannabis, showing a shift in the types of substances causing concern.
While traditional marijuana flower exposure calls seem to be on the decrease, the boom in manufactured product popularity is larger than ever, according to Julia Dilley, Lead Researcher and Epidemiologist with the Oregon Public Health Division.
In 2017, a vast majority of calls pertained to marijuana plants, contrasting sharply to the calls in 2019, where the number associated with manufactured product exposures saw a dramatic increase.
THC Levels and Poisoning Concerns
Many of these manufactured products, especially edible forms of marijuana, have high THC levels, the intoxicating chemical in cannabis, leading to a greater risk of ill reactions.
It is evident that these products form the bulk of poison control calls. Over 81% of these calls are from individuals who have used these products alone, without mixing them with alcohol or any other substance.
On the other hand, only 38% of calls related to marijuana plant use came from individuals who used the plant alone, implying the tendency to mix with alcohol or other substances.
Raising the Alarm on Edibles
Concerns are especially high for edible cannabis products, which represent just over half of the calls related to manufactured products. This category raises significant concerns as these products, often mistaken for candy or other sweets, are more likely to be consumed by children.
Interestingly, over a period of three years, more than 2500 cases involving use of these products and kids under 10 were reported, in contrast to about 1490 exposures related to plant-based substances.
While over 60% of these cases led to minor health issues, many individuals called because they felt unwell and needed reassurance or assistance.
Legalization and the Growing Issue
There’s a higher call rate from states where marijuana use has been legalized. For instance, calls about manufactured products were 2.5 per 100,000 people in legalization states as opposed to 1.3 per 100,000 in states where recreational marijuana use is still illegal.
Experts indicate that state regulators need to impose stiffer regulations to protect children. One suggested move is the design of packages that are difficult for kids to open. Other steps could include clear labelling of cannabis products, public education about the differences between manufactured products and plant use, and promoting consumer responsibility.
Lastly, adults are urged to be mindful of where they are leaving these products, ensuring they are out of sight and reach of children. As marijuana-infused products continue to grow in the market, it’s essential to address health concerns proactively and make sure inadvertent ingestion or over-ingestion is avoided.
Individuals seeking more information on marijuana can find a wealth of resources on the subject.
SOURCES: Julia Dilley, PhD, Epidemiologist, Oregon Public Health Division; Paul Armentano, Deputy Director, NORML; Partnership to End Addiction; _JAMA Network Open_,