The legalization of cannabis is becoming more common across the nation, for medical and recreational purposes. As a result, children are inadvertently ingesting marijuana and becoming seriously ill.
On the national scale, these incidents are increasing. There were a reported 187 marijuana edible exposure cases for children 12 years and younger in 2016. In 2020, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reports, that number rose drastically to 3,100. These were cases that were reported to poison control, however, there were many that were not which means this number is much higher. Children between the ages of 3 and 5 were found to be the most affected.
In some places, this can have serious legal repercussions for the parents. You may even face child endangerment charges for accidentally poisoning your child, on top of drug charges for possession. While it may have been an accident, the courts may not be too keen on seeing it as such. You may need to enlist the help of a Franklin drug crime attorney to weigh out your options.
What happens when a child ingests marijuana?
Luckily, there have been no marijuana attributed deaths reported among children who have accidentally ingested marijuana. An AAP study did find that 15 percent of children had moderate symptoms when they were accidentally exposed. They may have experienced a seizure or had been hard to wake. About 1.4 percent had major effects that are life-altering. This includes multiple seizures, difficulty breathing, and sedation leading to unresponsiveness. Children may be admitted to intensive care units to find a treatment plan for the excessive ingestion of marijuana products.
While THC can help a number of ailments in adults and is a more natural approach to treatment, there are many adverse effects on children of all ages. The drug can affect brain development in teens and can also affect mental health disorders. Cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome and psychosis are also other prevalent conditions that children can suffer.
If a child ingests a small amount they may simply become sleepy, have an unsteady walk, and even “look high.” While these are not extremely adverse effects, if this happens often there can be more severe consequences on their overall health. When a child ingests a large amount they will vomit, have slow breathing, and even become comatose. They may even require a mechanical ventilator to breathe.
When “medicine” looks like candy
Cannabis products can come in a range of forms and edibles seem to be the most tantalizing method of consumption. Edibles come in chocolate bars, lollipops, fruity gummies, and cookies. This makes them easier to ingest as an adult and tempting for a child. Many children are too young to even realize that what they are doing is wrong. They think this is just like any other candy and will often eat too much which can make them overdose and become incredibly ill. In many states, edibles need to be in child-resistant packaging and have the letters “THC” printed on them. Other states have taken things a step further by banning cannabis products that are shaped like fruit or animals so the temptation to children is reduced.
What to after if your children eat your edibles
The moment you realize that your child has eaten cannabis edibles contact poison control immediately. We know that this is scary in two ways: your child may be in danger, and you may be in trouble for possessing an illegal substance. But you need to et your child help ASAP. Poison control will assess the symptoms your child is experiencing and advise you on what to do next. There may come a point where they inform you that it is time to go to the hospital and seek emergency medical care.
If your child is experiencing severe symptoms like vomiting, labored breathing, or being unable to wake you will need to go to the emergency room immediately. Doctors will run toxicology tests and provide your child with oxygen. The majority of the time, the only treatment that is needed is observation until the child wakes and is able to go home.
Protecting your children from accidental ingestion
Parents will play a critical role in protecting their children. Like any other medication or unsafe product, you will need to store cannabis products away from a child’s reach. If possible, find a small lockbox of some sort and place it out of reach, so that your children are deterred. Just because you put something up high or in a drawer this does not mean that your children cannot get to it. Children can be quite crafty and they may still find a way to get to your gummies.
If your child is going to a friend’s house, discuss with their parents whether cannabis is found in the home and how it is being stored. If you are having guests over, ensure they are storing their cannabis products correctly so your children do not get to them.
Can you be charged with a drug crime?
Yes, you can. Tennessee has different drug schedules for various drugs and marijuana is one of those drugs. If you are found in possession of marijuana of any kind, and in any form, you can be charged with a crime.
If your child overdoses from marijuana, you face even more serious penalties. Child endangerment charges are usually misdemeanors, but when coupled with a drug charge, you could face felony charges of aggravated child endangerment. Under “Haley’s Law,” when “a deadly weapon, dangerous instrumentality, controlled substance or controlled substance analogue is used to accomplish the act of abuse, neglect or endangerment,” it is an act of felony abuse. If the child is under the age of 8, the charge increases form a Class B felony to a Class A felony. A Class B felony can lead to up to 30 years in prison and/or $25,000 in fines. A Class A felony will double that.
If you have been charged with possession or child endangerment, you need an experienced Franklin criminal defense attorney on your side. Contact the Law Offices of Adrian H. Altshuler & Associates at 615-977-9370, or complete our contact form to schedule a consultation. We serve clients in the Franklin, Columbia, and Brentwood areas.