As a grandmother and long-time child advocate, I am appalled by the increasing availability of edible marijuana products to children.
Why? Because it is so easy for kids to ingest them accidentally.
Unmarked marijuana edibles are showing up everywhere, warns Smart Colorado, a youth advocacy group focused on protecting kids from marijuana.
Colorado citizens voted to legalize recreational marijuana in 2012. Stores licensed to sell pot officially opened on Jan. 1, 2014. In the first nine months of that year, 14 children affected by edible marijuana were admitted to Children’s Hospital Colorado. This compares to the 14 total cases admitted in the previous two years combined.
Some courageous legislators are stepping up to the plate. Last month, when a bill to delay the process of labeling edible pot was introduced, the measure was struck down by a 5-0 vote in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. Kudos go to Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, chair of the committee, who said, “Legal edible marijuana products need to be clearly identifiable, packaged and labeled. If it’s not identifiable, it’s not legal.”
Committee member Linda Newell, D-Centennial, echoed Lundberg’s concerns. “I believe that … any accidental ingestion is too much.”
More on edibles
Diane Carlson, co-founder of Smart Colorado — which was recently endorsed by all four of Colorado’s living ex-governors — notes that outside packaging of marijuana edibles can be indistinguishable from everyday non-marijuana foods, candies and beverages. This is dangerous and confusing for kids and adults alike.
Clearly the industry, which cannot sell directly to anyone under 21, is preparing our kids to be the consumers of tomorrow. Remember when smoking was made “cool” by ads attractive to teenagers?
Christian Thurstone, director of the STEP Program at Denver Health — one of Colorado’s largest youth substance-abuse treatment programs — has conducted extensive research regarding marijuana and the developing brain. His research shows:
• Youth exposed to marijuana in utero have a 5-point decrease in IQ at age 6; a greater chance of depression, hyperactivity and impulsivity at age 10; and lower school achievement at age 14.
• At least one in six adolescents who experiment with marijuana will develop an addiction to the drug.
• Heavy use starting in adolescence predicts up to an 8-point drop in IQ from ages 13 to 39. It also predicts a two-fold risk of psychosis in adulthood.
Lakewood High School Principal Lisa Ritchey is outraged. In a December 2014 CNBC segment, “Kids and Pot: What’s the Harm?” Ritchey told correspondent Harry Smith: “Legalization has been bad for kids … . They don’t get it!
“Marijuana is so easy to get. Their parents have it, their brothers have it … their older friends have it. There is no campaign to educate kids,” she continued. “They do not believe it is bad for them.”
Education groups, in addition to Smart Colorado, are springing up. One is SAM, the Colorado affiliate of the national group Smart Approaches to Marijuana.
Lisa Young, mother of a Lakewood High freshman who campaigned to keep retail pot out of Lakewood, said “at every turn, activists are being bamboozled by paid pot lobbyists at public meetings. The marijuana industry is only interested in profit; romancing kids with tempting edibles, and convenient vape pens to hide their use … .”
“Unfortunately, our kids are serving as guinea pigs in a highly risky experiment,” said Carlson. “It is critical that Colorado starts putting the health, safety and future of its kids first.”
Dottie Lamm (firstname.lastname@example.org), former first lady of Colorado, is a psychiatric social worker and the grandmother of four.