ATLANTA — Georgia health officials are seeing an alarming rise in children sickened, even hospitalized after eating marijuana-infused edibles.
In many cases, children unknowingly eat the THC product because it looks similar to, and is packaged like candy.
“She was non-responsible, seizing and it was very scary,” said Florida mother Morgan McCoy, describing her young daughter’s terrifying overdose on THC while on a beach trip Memorial Day weekend.
McCoy’s 6-year-old stumbled across a package that looked like candy. It had been put in a dresser by another adult. The child ate one of the edibles.
“She was lethargic, unable to open her eyes. She was not responsive. The only time I did see her sit up was when she had the seizure where she was sitting on her knees. She started shaking and I grabbed her immediately,” McCoy said.
She called 911 and paramedics rushed her daughter to the hospital.
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Here in Georgia, several students in Cedartown were rushed to the hospital after eating gummies with THC in October.
“And so, they eat five or six gummies before gummy number one has taken effect and then you’re having some medical emergency,” Cedartown Police Chief Jamie Newsome said.
As THC edibles become more potent and widely available, the number of children poisoned after accidentally eating them is soaring.
“In the last three years, we have seen significant increases in calls about these products in children. In fact, when you look at the data, we’ve seen a 66-percent increase in calls relating to those cannabis-containing products,” said Dr. Gaylord Lopez, director of Georgia’s Poison Center.
Lopez told Channel 2 they get calls almost weekly about another child overdosing on THC edibles and ending up in the ER.
“You could get anything from hallucinations to seizure activity,” Lopez said.
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“I’ve heard from about eight other parents who have reached out to me to let me know they’ve been through the same experience with their children, but they are too scared to say anything and there’s been quite a bit of backlash thrown at me for sharing my story,” McCoy said.
The mother said it’s frightening that THC edible makers can package their products to look like sweet treats, putting young children at risk.
The National Cannabis Industry Association, which represents legal and licensed cannabis businesses, said edibles packaged as candy are underground, illegal products.
“Every state that has a regulated medical or adult-use cannabis program has very strict rules regarding packaging and labeling that prevent the sort of advertising and branding that could potentially appeal to children,” said Morgan Fox with the National Cannabis Industry Association.
Channel 2 has reported on large seizures of black-market THC edibles in Georgia. Unlike licensed, regulated products, their potency is unpredictable along with the medical side effects in children.
“This isn’t your grandmother’s, you know, cannabis. In fact, many of the strains that we are seeing are now 20-30 percent stronger than days past and that is causing a lot of the problems,” Lopez said.
“The worst story I’ve heard was a 17-month-old child eating two gummies and spent three days in the ICU,” McCoy said. “Why are we going to allow packaging of a drug to be drawn towards children. It’s definitely reaching for them and I want that packaging off the streets.”
Her daughter made a full recovery, but McCoy worries another parent may not be as fortunate.
She is pleading to makers to stop selling edibles that look like candy that appeal to children but could also poison them. She has started a petition to do just that.
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