Pediatric marijuana poisoning cases have increased significantly in Colorado in the 2 years since the state legalized recreational use of the drug, a rate that is also higher than that reported in the rest of the United States, according to research published in JAMA Pediatrics.

“Almost half of the patients seen in the children’s hospital in the 2 years after legalization had exposures from recreational marijuana, suggesting that legalization did affect the incidence of exposures,” stated George Sam Wang, MD, of the Department of Pediatrics, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, and colleagues.

Dr Wang’s group sought to compare the incidence of marijuana exposure in children who were evaluated at the Children’s Hospital Colorado, Aurora, and at a regional poison center (RPC) in Colorado before and after recreational marijuana use was legalized. The researchers also aimed to compare population rate trends of regional poison center cases of marijuana exposure with the trends observed in the rest of the United States in the retrospective cohort study.

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A total of 81 patients were evaluated at the children’s hospital, and 163 marijuana exposure cases presented to the RPC between January 1, 2009, and December 31, 2015. All children were younger than age 10 years.

The median age of children who were admitted to the hospital was 2.4 years; 25 were girls (40%). The median age of children who presented to the RPC was 2 years; 85 were girls (52%). The mean rate of marijuana-related visits to the children’s hospital increased from 1.2 per 100,000 population 2 years prior to legalization to 2.3 per 100,000 population 2 years after legalization. The known marijuana products that were involved in the exposure included 30 infused edibles (48%).

The number of annual RPC pediatric marijuana cases increased more than fivefold from 2009 (9) to 2015 (47). Colorado had an average increase in RPC cases of 34% per year, compared with an increase of 19% in the rest of the United States. For 10 exposure cases (9%), the marijuana was not stored in a child-resistant container. In 40 cases (34%), poor child supervision or marijuana storage was reported. Edible products were responsible for 51 exposures (52%) among the RPC group.


Wang GS, Le Lait MC, Deakyne SJ, Bronstein AC, Bajaj L, Roosevelt G.. Unintentional pediatric exposures to marijuana in Colorado, 2009-2015. JAMA Pediatr. 2016 Jul 25:e160971. doi: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2016.0971 [Epub ahead of print]