Children are eating cannabis edibles and it’s dangerous, says Montreal Children’s Hospital

AMA is warning drivers not to get behind the wheel if they've consumed cannabis — in any form. File / Global News

An increasing number of young children are being admitted to the ER for cannabis intoxication, the Montreal Children’s Hospital stated Thursday.

The hospital issued an alert emphasizing the need to properly store cannabis products.

Since the legalization of marijuana in 2018, the hospital has seen over 26 cases of cannabis-related incidents in young children, says Dr. Debbie Friedman, trauma director for the Montreal Children’s Hospital.

Before legalization, and more specifically between 1990 and 2016, only a handful of patients per year went to the emergency room for marijuana intoxication, says Friedman.

READ MORE: Marijuana edibles: Is Canada on track to legalize them

According to Friedman, “we’re undergoing a new reality in terms of cannabis use and how to deal with it.”

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She says doctors are concerned by the alarming increase in childhood cannabis ingestion and the severe reactions they’ve seen. Since 2016, approximately nine children under the age of seven have been treated in the trauma centre and some of them in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), she notes.

“We’re concerned about the legislation for edibles,” says Friedman.

READ MORE: Quebec government amends bill targeted at tightening cannabis regulations

Tuesday, the Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) promised to tighten cannabis regulations, known as Bill 2.

The government recently announced municipalities will now be able to decide whether to allow or ban the consumption of marijuana in certain public parks and spaces — under certain conditions.

Friedman insists this could make matters worse and may increase the possibility of young children getting their hands on leftover joints or cannabis-laced edibles.

“We can’t forget that children are not small adults and small amounts (of cannabis) can have serious consequences,” she says.

READ MORE: Legault says he’ll raise Quebec’s marijuana age to 21

According to a new brochure specially curated for parents, the trauma centre warns “the most common overdose in children occurs when they eat edible forms of cannabis (i.e. brownies, gummy bears) which can look like enticing candies or sweets.”

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Friedman warns “legal doesn’t necessarily mean safer for children.”

She says it is a matter of adjusting the way we think about cannabis and treating it the same as medicine and other drugs.

Click to play video: 'IWK sounds alarm on kids and cannabis after calls to poison line spike' IWK sounds alarm on kids and cannabis after calls to poison line spike
IWK sounds alarm on kids and cannabis after calls to poison line spike – Mar 18, 2019

She says parents are often quite concerned and honest in sharing information when they bring their children to the ER.

The emergency room often sees children under seven coming in with symptoms like difficulty breathing, drowsiness, slurred speech, loss of balance and in extreme cases, seizures.

To date, no fatalities from cannabis consumption have been recorded at the Montreal Children’s Hospital.

The brochure suggests several ways to use cannabis safely:

  • Buy cannabis from a regulated seller.
  • Do not drive while under the influence of cannabis.
  • Clean up all cannabis products after every single use.

Things to remember:

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  • Keep cannabis in child-resistant packaging.
  • Store cannabis products in a safe and locked location, far out of reach of children.
  • Tell guests who have cannabis to keep their products away from children.
  • Teach your children about medicine safety.
  • Help them understand what medicine is and why adults should be the only ones handling it.
  • Second-hand smoke from cannabis is harmful.
  • Do not smoke where children are present.

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