Kids under 5 most at risk from legalizing marijuana

by Vanessa Garcia Rodriguez |

(Screen shot: Time Know Right Now)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (Christian Examiner) -- Marijuana exposure among children age five and under is rising at alarming rates across the U.S., with those most impacted reportedly under age three.

The push to legalize marijuana could only make matters worse according to a new report June 8 in the medical journal Clinical Pediatrics published by researchers at Nationwide Children's Hospital.

"Any state considering marijuana legalization needs to include child protections in its laws from the very beginning," senior author of the study Gary Smith, MD, DrPH, and director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's said.

Pot-laced candy (L) looks no different than kids' treats

"Child safety must be part of the discussion when a state is considering legalization of marijuana," Smith said.

Strikingly, Smith's study demonstrated a 147.5 percent increase in marijuana exposure among children 5 years and younger between 2006 and 2013, Science Daily reported.

The data also showed fears over legalizing marijuana are well-founded since the rate of increase of marijuana exposure in children in states which legally permitted medical marijuana use prior to 2000 jumped to 610 percent during the same period.

More than 75 percent of children exposed to marijuana were under age three, the majority of which had swallowed it by mouth.

Marijuana-laced foods are likely the reason for the toddlers ingesting the drug according to one of the studies co-authors Henry Spiller, D.ABAT, toxicologist, and director of the Central Ohio Poison Center at Nationwide Children's.

"Very young children explore their environments by putting items in their mouths, and foods such as brownies and cookies are attractive," Spiller said.

While the total number of reported cases is not overwhelmingly high, it is the rate of increase in states where marijuana has been legalized raised concerns, Smith said. In total, Poison Control Centers reported only 1,969 cases of exposure in young children between 2000 and 2013.

Still, the debate over legalizing THC can no longer focus solely on health benefits and criminal activity, but must now consider the risk to young children as well.