An increasing number of states are decriminalizing the use of medical marijuana, and the effect on the pediatric population has not been evaluated.
To compare the proportion of marijuana ingestions by young children who sought care at a children’s hospital in Colorado before and after modification of drug enforcement laws in October 2009 regarding medical marijuana possession.
Retrospective cohort study from January 1, 2005, through December 31, 2011.
Tertiary-care children’s hospital emergency department in Colorado.
A total of 1378 patients younger than 12 years evaluated for unintentional ingestions: 790 patients before September 30, 2009, and 588 patients after October 1, 2009.
Main Outcomes and Measures
Marijuana exposure visits, marijuana source, symptoms, and patient disposition.
The proportion of ingestion visits in patients younger than 12 years (age range, 8 months to 12 years)that were related to marijuana exposure increased after September 30, 2009, from 0 of 790 (0%; 95% CI, 0%-0.6%) to 14 of 588 (2.4%; 95% CI, 1.4%-4.0%) (P < .001). Nine patients had lethargy, 1 had ataxia, and 1 had respiratory insufficiency. Eight patients were admitted, 2 to the intensive care unit. Eight of the 14 cases involved medical marijuana, and 7 of these exposures were from food products.
Conclusions and Relevance
We found a new appearance of unintentional marijuana ingestions by young children after modification of drug enforcement laws for marijuana possession in Colorado. The consequences of unintentional marijuana exposure in children should be part of the ongoing debate on legalizing marijuana.