Pot poisoning reports increase among young kids in Washington

AP file photo

SEATTLE – An alert to parents following a disturbing spike in the number of reported pot poisonings across the state.

The data comes from the Washington Poison Center. It shows that while cannabis exposures are up for all age groups since legalization, the biggest jump is among children aged 5 and younger.

“We saw a spike that we didn't see in the other age groups in very young children,” said Dr. Erica Liebelt, the medical director at the Washington Poison Center.

Between 2016 to 2017, the poison center recorded a 57.7 percent increase in the number of people reporting their young child had ingested pot. Symptoms can include vomiting, sleepiness, seizures and even coma.

What's unclear is whether more kids are actually getting sick since weed became legal for adults, or that parents feel more comfortable asking for help.

At Hashtag Cannabis in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, great care is taken to keep marijuana off-limits to children. Assistant manger Christine Bryant said the industry has its challenges but legalization gives the state more options.

“One of the hopes of legalization would be deterring the illicit market, and also providing more control in keeping the substances out of the hands of minors," Bryant said. “I would say legalization has definitely achieved that goal."

Whatever is to blame for the increased poisonings, youth advocates said legalization likely changed perceptions.

“People aren't as worried about marijuana being harmful, and that's because, I think, of legalization," said Stephanie Tschida, with Healthy Youth Central Area Network.

Healthy Youth CAN is hosting an informational dinner and showcase Thursday night to address teen drug use and give families suggestions about making healthy decisions. The event runs from 6 to 8 p.m. on June 28 at the Miller Community Center, located at 330 19th Ave E in Seattle.

To reach the Washington Poison Center, call 800-222-1222.

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