Dayton Children’s joins regional and state efforts to oppose marijuana legalization ballot initiative
Dayton Children’s top priority is keeping children safe from harm. “We are deeply concerned about the risk to young children swallowing, breathing or being exposed to marijuana in any way, should it become legal and more widely available,” says Deborah A. Feldman, president and CEO of Dayton Children’s Hospital.
As a member of the Ohio Children’s Hospital Association (OCHA), Dayton Children’s has joined the statewide coalition to oppose the ballot initiative to legalize marijuana. The hospital also joined the regional group, the DREAM Coalition, in opposition to the initiative.
The Ohio Marijuana Legalization Initiative would allow marijuana use for adults 21 years or older and medical marijuana use for minors with parental consent and a doctor’s recommendation. Adults could also grow a small number of plants for personal use with a license. With this initiative, common baked goods, candies and sodas infused with marijuana would also be legally available for purchase by adults 21 years of age and older.
“Marijuana-infused products are nearly impossible to differentiate from the regular versions and look just like treats you might find in many kids’ lunch boxes: gummy bears, goldfish crackers, Swedish fish or peanut butter cups,” says Thomas Krzmarzick, MD, medical director of Dayton Children’s emergency department. “Most of these edible marijuana products can be tremendously intoxicating to children, even at the manufacturer-recommended consumption levels for adults. Young children can be tempted and harmed by the marijuana-infused versions, if a package is left within their reach.”
In a recent study by Nationwide Children’s Hospital published online in Clinical Pediatrics, researchers found the following:
- There were 1,969 cases of marijuana exposure in young children reported to Poison Control Centers in the United States from 2000 through 2013.
- More than 75 percent of the children who were exposed were younger than 3 years old and most ingested a marijuana-infused food item.
- The rate of marijuana exposure among children 5 and younger rose 147.5 percent from 2006 through 2013 across the United States.
- The rate increased almost 610 percent during the same period in states that legalized marijuana for medical use before 2000.
- In states that legalized marijuana from 2000 through 2013, the rate increased almost 16 percent per year after legalization.
- Even states that had not legalized marijuana by 2013 saw a rise of 63 percent in marijuana exposures among young children from 2000 through 2013.
According to the U.S. National Survey on Drug Use and Health, kids who were struggling in school were more than four times as likely to have used marijuana in the past year as youth with an average of higher grades.
“Recent studies have shown us that teen marijuana use is already on the rise. We shouldn’t give any more help. Pot use in the teen years can have profound impacts on the developing brain. It can impact a child’s memory, critical thinking and problem solving skills,” says Mary Beth Dewitt, psychology program manager. “Our kids have to learn ways to feel good, deal with depression, overcome rejection and get through the day without using chemicals.”
Medicinal marijuana and kids
Parents of children with severely debilitating conditions may look to medical marijuana as a treatment for their child. There have been anecdotal cases that look promising and generate interest and hope. The American Academy of Pediatrics calls for more research on these treatments, as there is not yet enough scientific evidence to support these claims. However, with more research on the use of marijuana to treat certain conditions, parents, patients and healthcare professionals will be better informed when determining the best course of care for a child and any option that may better a child’s quality of life.
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