The most pernicious marijuana myth, debunked

A new study is raising hackles about pot-laced edibles. The statistics really aren't as alarming as they seem

Published July 30, 2015 9:00AM (EDT)

  (AP/Elaine Thompson)
(AP/Elaine Thompson)

This article originally appeared on AlterNet.

AlterNet If you read the national headlines or watch the reports on TV, you’d think there was a dangerous epidemic sweeping the nation’s youngsters. According to a recent study, more kids are accidentally ingesting their parents’ cannabis, especially in states where the herb is legal. When marijuana-laced edibles are wrapped in darling packaging to look like delicious cookies, brownies, chocolate bars and ice cream sandwiches, it follows that a few kids will accidentally eat them.

However, the general reaction to the study is waxing hysterical. In reality, as Mason Tvert of the Marijuana Policy Project pointed out in an email, the actual statistics of the study aren’t as alarming as they seem.

In the pot-legal state of Colorado, for example, where there are likely more marijuana businesses (and treats) than anywhere in the world, the study notes that the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center (RMPDC) received 151 calls about marijuana exposure in 2014, 45 of which involved children 8 years old and younger. Those incidents should be taken seriously. But they don’t seem so outstanding when you stack them next to the 2,690 calls about children 5 and under being exposed to cosmetics, 1,495 regarding household cleaning product exposure, and 739 calls regarding vitamins—all of which RMPDC received in 2011.

Published in the journal Clinical Pediatrics, the study concluded accidental exposure to pot is increasingly common for children. It based its data on analysis of self-reported incidents between 2000 to 2013 from the National Poison Data System, which gathers its statistics from all of the poison control centers in the country. Naturally, pot-laced treats were the most common offender.

As a recent article in the Washington Post points out, accidental ingestions account for “a whopping 75 percent of cases," and the study’s co-author, Henry Spiller, said in a statement that “the high percentage of ingestions may be related to the popularity of marijuana brownies, cookies and other foods.”

But according to the study itself, cannabis exposure in children under 6 is still a rare thing. The Post article also notes that the numbers reported to poison control regarding marijuana are "relatively small compared to a host of other things that pose a danger to young children, such as pain medications, which are more likely to be in just about every household.”

It’s also worth mentioning that cannabis overdose has never killed anyone. While some studies have shown that repeated cannabis use may impact adolescents’ developing brains (a notion that is still up for discussion), there is no conclusive evidence of its long-term negative effects on young people.

By April Short

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