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Utah hospitals warn: Watch out for kids gobbling pot-laced candy

Published July 1, 2014 6:51 am

Health • The number of marijuana-related hospitalizations in Colorado kids is up.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Utah hospitals are telling doctors to consider marijuana-laced candy from Colorado as a possible culprit when patients — particularly children — show up for emergency treatment.

Bonnie Midget, spokeswoman for Primary Children's Hospital in Salt Lake City, said reports of higher numbers of pot-related hospitalizations among Colorado children prompted the warning.

Also, communities near the Colorado border are beginning to see Utah residents bringing in marijuana preparations that they can purchase legally in Colorado but which are illegal in Utah, she said.

The fear is that children will eat too many of the marijuana candies, such as lollipops, Swedish fish and chocolates, she said.

"No kid is going to eat one Gummi Bear," said Midget.

Primary Children's issued an alert to its own emergency room doctors, and the Utah Medical Association issued the same alert for hospital administrators to share with their staffs throughout the state.

"Please be aware of the potential for these types of ingestions in any child that presents with alteration of mental status without a readily identified source," the warning said. "Urine drug screens will pick up the ingestion of these types of substances."

Barbara Crouch, executive director of the Utah Poison Control Center, said the center has not yet seen such poisonings.

"But it certainly is something that is of concern to us," said Crouch.

While states that allow medical uses of marijuana have seen instances of non-patients "getting into the stash," Crouch said, "the edibles are a bigger concern."

According to The Denver Post, the number of children being treated for accidental marijuana ingestion at Colorado's largest pediatric emergency department is on pace to double this year. Recreational marijuana became legal in Colorado on Jan. 1.

Michael DiStefano, the medical director of the Children's Hospital Colorado emergency department, told the Post in May that nine kids had been brought into the hospital for accidental marijuana ingestion. Of those, seven were admitted to the hospital's intensive-care unit — most commonly for what DiStefano said was either extreme sedation or agitation.

One of those kids had breathing problems that required a respirator, DiStefano said. Most of the children who were admitted were between 3 and 7 years old, he said.

Last year, the hospital saw eight children in its emergency room who accidentally ate marijuana. Between 2005 and 2013, only eight children were admitted at the hospital for unintentional marijuana ingestion, DiStefano said.

Although the numbers are still small compared with the total patient load, Di-Stefano said the patients at Children's are just one slice of what hospitals across the state are seeing.

"It is important to stop it before it becomes a huge problem," he told the newspaper.

kmoulton@sltrib.com

Twitter: @KristenMoulton