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Kids Poisoned by Medical Marijuana, Study Finds

Children helping themselves to drug-laced cookies, brownies
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For the study, Wang's team compared the number of children treated in the emergency room for marijuana poisoning before and after the law was enacted in October 2009.

In all, almost 1,400 children under 12 were evaluated for accidental poisonings in this one hospital -- 790 before Sept. 30, 2009, and 588 after that.

After decriminalization, 14 children -- mostly boys and some as young as 8 months -- were found to have ingested marijuana. Eight had consumed medical marijuana, and seven ate marijuana in foods. Two were admitted to the intensive care unit.

Before Sept. 30, 2009, none of those possible poisonings was attributed to marijuana, the researchers found.

There may be more unreported cases, the study authors said. "Because of a perceived stigma associated with medical marijuana, families may be reluctant to report its use to health care providers," they wrote in the study.

"Similar to many accidental medicinal pediatric exposures, the source of the marijuana in most cases was the grandparents, who may not have been available during data collection," the researchers added.

Eighteen states and Washington, D.C., have legalized medical marijuana. Colorado and Washington also have legalized the recreational use of marijuana.

In late 2009, the U.S. Justice Department instructed federal prosecutors not to arrest medical marijuana users and suppliers if they complied with state laws, the researchers said.

To prevent harm to children, Wang advises treating marijuana like any other drug and keeping it out of their reach, particularly if it's in a tempting form like cookies.

Some poison-control experts also are pushing for marijuana to come in tamper-proof packages as a way of keeping children away from it.

The ongoing debate about legalizing marijuana should include discussion of the potential consequences to children, said the researchers and other medical experts.

"There is a lot of information that may not be entirely accurate about how benign marijuana is," said Dr. Sharon Levy, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, who wrote an accompanying journal editorial.

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