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IWK Regional Poison Centre reports increase in cannabis edible consumption by children in 2020

Chocolate edibles available for authorized retailers are displayed at the Ontario Cannabis Store in Toronto on Friday, Jan. 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin

A certified specialist in poison information at the IWK Regional Poison Centre is advising parents and guardians to lock up their cannabis edibles in a safe place out of children’s reach.

According to MaryAnne Carew, who is also a registered nurse, edibles are more accessible now and in a lot of people’s homes after having been legalized, and that’s one of the main reasons why there has been an increase in edible consumption by children.

Read more: Several children hospitalized after eating illegal cannabis edibles, Health Canada says

Carew said the centre has had five cases per year in 2018 and 2019, but this year it’s had an increase to 36 cases.

So far this year, the centre has received 16 calls of children five and under who have consumed edibles, and it’s had 13 cases of children from six to 19. 

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“The main message is that edibles need to be locked up. Even keeping them in high places does not necessarily make them out of reach. Children can climb and are curious and see a candy package that looks just like candy — they don’t know the difference,” said Carew.

Click to play video: 'Edible Cannabis – IWK experts share concerns' Edible Cannabis – IWK experts share concerns
Edible Cannabis – IWK experts share concerns – Oct 23, 2019

Edibles can cause severe drowsiness, which, according to Carew, can potentially affect children’s breathing and is considered the biggest concern.

“It can be very prolonged. So any child that gets into or ingests an edible preparation is automatically referred into the hospital,” she said.

Parents are encouraged to contact emergency services if they see their child exhibiting unusual behaviour and unexplainably sleepy, especially if they know they have edibles in their homes.

“The best thing to do would be to put the edibles in a locked cupboard or a locked box that’s well out of reach,” Carew said.

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