SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s emergency rooms and doctors have been placed on alert for children who may accidentally ingest marijuana-laced candy, cookies or brownies.
The warning circulated by the Utah Hospital Association was prompted largely over the state’s proximity to Colorado — where recreational marijuana use is legal — and a number of child hospitalizations in that state.
Last year, eight children were hospitalized in Colorado because of unintentional ingestions. Nine pediatric hospitalizations had been recorded so far this year.
“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 advisory reads. “Urine drug screens will pick up the ingestion of these types of substances.”
At the Utah Poison Control Center, medical director Dr. Thomas Martin said Tuesday the center hadn’t seen much of an uptick in calls about accidental marijuana ingestions, but he expects to see more in the coming months.
“I think that more and more people will realize these forms — these edible forms — are out there and bring it home with them, and we’ll get more children getting into it if they’re not careful,” Martin said.
A concern to children and adults is the amount of THC contained in some of the gummies, candies, cookies and brownies that are being marketed, sometimes as much as 10 individual servings, he said.
Adults have also become victims of apparent marijuana mishaps, including a 19-year-old international student who jumped off a balcony to his death in April after consuming a marijuana cookie.
Martin said children who accidentally consume too much marijuana could see some very serious consequences, including coma and death in extreme cases.
“They may just present as severely impaired or confused or hallucinating or acting very unusual,” he said.
Still, those behaviors can be problematic for doctors trying to diagnose a malady, and can prompt a battery of tests if the cause of the altered state is unknown.
“There are some serious things like infection or inflammation of the brain that can account for that,” Martin said.
How soon an increase in accidental overdoses and unintended ingestions might be noted remains unclear.
While there are fears that the Colorado-legal products are crossing the state line into the state, Utah Department of Public Safety Capt. Tyler Kotter said troopers had not observed a noticeable increase in traffic from Utah’s neighbor.
“You hear a lot of the stories, the anecdotal stories, saying it’s coming here,” Kotter said. “We haven’t seen that.
Marijuana edibles are discovered daily during traffic stops in Utah, he said, but no significant change has occurred since Colorado’s law was altered, and more marijuana traffic comes into the state on I-80 from northern California.
Troopers are constantly looking for drugs entering the state, Kotter said, but interdiction strategies have not changed and are not likely to change.
“The more narcotics we can take off the street, the less likely it’s going to get to some innocent individual, get them addicted and basically ruin a life,” he said.
Kotter said though recreational marijuana use may be legal in Colorado, it’s still not an excuse to bring it across the border.
“I realize that’s something that’s brought up,” he said. “And we hear it routinely. However, state law — the way it’s written — it’s illegal for them to be able to possess that stuff.”