WHEN CHILDREN steal cookies from the cookie jar, they usually suffer little more than a scolding. When those cookies contain cannabis, it’s a different story: According to a study published Monday, exposure to marijuana among children in Colorado has increased in the two years since the state began selling the drug legally — and so have the emergency-room visits that follow.
Colorado gave the green light to medical marijuana in 2000. In 2012, the state sanctioned recreational use, and by January 2014, dispensary store shelves were stocked with potent products of all shapes and sizes. Since then, marijuana-related trips to children’s care centers have almost doubled, though incidence overall remains low. Edibles in particular seem to entice unsuspecting children who think they are sneaking everyday snacks, though secondhand smoke is also a culprit. After accidental marijuana consumption, most children simply become sleepy. In the worst of cases, they can end up intubated.
It’s possible that reports have risen in Colorado in part because doctors are more aware of the problem and parents less reluctant to admit to having marijuana in their homes. But the trend, which holds true in states with similar laws, deserves attention — not least because it could teach legislators considering decriminalization in other localities to exercise caution.
The District is one of those places. In 2014, voters approved an initiative to let residents and visitors 21 and older keep and carry a limited amount of the drug, as well as grow it at home. But Congress — in a display of blatant disregard for self-determination — has quashed the city’s attempts to move toward a tax-and-regulate regime that would allow for the drug’s legal purchase and sale. In response, some D.C. Council members have displayed a desire to loosen restrictions on marijuana even without the ability to control its use. A task force is scheduled to release recommendations on allowing smoking in private clubs at the end of the summer.
Colorado’s case gives the District one more reason to tread carefully until it can regulate marijuana in a responsible way. Coloradan stores, for example, adopted child-resistant packaging in 2015. This month, a law went into effect barring marijuana-laced look-alikes to common children’s treats such as gummy bears and other sweets in human, animal or fruit shapes. The state has also tried to encourage manufacturers to limit product potency, and some local lawmakers have proposed a mandatory cap.
Those rules address just one problem associated with legalization. But this week’s study stresses the need for more research on marijuana’s effects to know what other issues might arise — and for states to sit tight until they understand how to solve them.