EDITORIAL: Edible marijuana products need safety measures

Five minors were taken to a hospital last week after eating chocolate containing the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana and becoming ill. While this is just one incident, the situation brings up the question of how to keep cannabis edibles out of the hands of young people, a topic that should take high priority in this new era of legal recreational marijuana.    

The Associated Press reported that a 13-year-old student at the Bishop Woods School in New Haven gave the edibles to four other students, ages 12 and 13. Some of the students vomited and some became lethargic, but all were conscious and alert when taken to the hospital as a precautionary measure. It was not immediately clear how the student obtained the edibles, which were in packaging that listed the THC content.

The cannabis marketplace offers many items that look just like regular food. Marijuana is used as an ingredient in cookies, brownies, lollipops, drinks, and popcorn, to name a few. Gummies are popular and come in fruity flavors and animal shapes. How to package and market the stuff and where to keep it once it enters the home is a critical discussion. It’s easy to see the appeal of the products to kids and also the confusion that could result due to the similarity of these products to everyday fare. 

The federal Drug Enforcement Agency educational initiative, Just Think Twice, notes that edibles can produce a longer, more intense effect than other cannabis products. For those who choose to use edibles, the DEA warns that the amount of THC is difficult to measure and is often unknown in these food products. As it can take up to three hours for the effects of edibles to kick in, the user may consume larger amounts of the drug, thinking it’s not working. 

While many Connecticut towns are still sorting out the rules for specialty shops offering marijuana products, it’s easy enough to purchase these items. Products are readily available next door in Massachusetts and recreational cannabis is legal in 17 other states, the District of Columbia and some territories.

With these products widely available and the market growing, it’s highly probable substances containing marijuana will be found in many households. Teens, curious toddlers and even adults who might not be aware of the true nature of yummy looking edibles could easily find themselves in a medical emergency.

With the industry relatively new, as far as being a legal enterprise, it’s likely that in time more regulations will follow along with more public education about use and abuse concerns, as has happened with other adult pursuits like alcohol, cigarettes and gambling.

But there are measures that can be taken now, without waiting on a long, legislative process. Businesses involved in the packaging and marketing of marijuana products, especially edibles, must take the lead to ensure products are easily identified and completely inaccessible to minors. 

Even so, the ultimate responsibility will always lie with the individual adults who are in possession of marijuana products. Houses, vehicles, pocketbooks — any possible storage area — must include safety measures to prevent gummies, chocolate or other edibles from falling into the wrong hands.


More From This Section