How To Keep Kids From Eating Marijuana? Go Gray

Jun 14, 2013

As Washington state moves toward licensing marijuana retail stores, a major concern for public health experts is preventing kids from eating marijuana. They are asking the state to ban marijuana-infused candy and other sweets, and require packaging and flavors that are less appealing to kids.

The Washington State Liquor Control Board is evaluating public comments on its draft marijuana regulations.  The agency plans to go through those comments and then reissue draft rules for the recreational marijuana market. A big area of concern for public health experts is preventing minors under 21 from using marijuana – accidentally or intentionally.

Steve Trinen is with the Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office, where he has worked on drug crimes. He points to a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association that found an increase in children under age 12 accidentally eating marijuana-infused cake, cookies and candy. 

“They had first an initial significant increase in children being exposed and having to be hospitalized from accidental exposure,” Trinen said.

The study noted that children who accidentally ingest marijuana can become sedated and experience panic and anxiety. In the most serious case, one child had trouble breathing. In his comments to the state, Trinen proposed creating a new icon, like the Mr. Yuck warning on poisons, and not allowing brightly colored products.

"We would want to make sure that that gets minimized as well, preferably by maybe limiting the way that these things can be produced and packaged so they don’t come across as candy or can’t be confused with candy,” he said.

Trinen suggested that any edible marijuana products be colored “drab gray” — about as far as you can get from marijuana brownies. Addiction experts are also worried about kid-friendly cartoons and advertising.

Frank Couch is one of those experts, he’s the executive director at Science and Management of Addictions, which provides drug treatment for teenagers. Couch said that at a recent concert at Marymoor Park the people in front of him bought some green lollipops that didn’t come with any warnings. 

“They really didn’t know until they got them there that these were infused products with cannabis," said Couch. "I was looking at these lollipops and I was thinking, that could have been something around my girls’ rooms, and that’s alarming."

Couch said he wants state regulators to learn from the marketing of alcohol and tobacco to minors, and to move slowly.