Legal marijuana may lead to influx of poison control calls
By Colin A. Young, State House News Service
BOSTON — Poison control officials in Massachusetts are gearing up for an expected spike in calls about accidental exposure to marijuana once legal sales of the substance begin on July 1.
That expectation is based on the experiences of states that legalized marijuana previously and have years of data on calls to poison control centers. One study from Colorado found that the rate of marijuana-related visits to a local children’s hospital nearly doubled from two years before legalization to two years after legal sales started.
“We anticipate an increased call volume because of legalization because we will be dealing with retail stores and there might be the possibility of young kids getting their hands on edibles and of parents not following safe storage practices,” Waqaas Bhutta, the program coordinator for the Regional Center for Poison Control and Prevention serving Massachusetts and Rhode Island, said.
Bhutta said poison control centers in Colorado saw a 108 percent increase in calls related to marijuana exposure for people of all ages between 2012 and 2015. There was a 206 percent increase during the same time period in calls related to marijuana exposure among people eight years old or younger, he said.
In Washington, Bhutta said, call volumes increased an average of 58 percent at poison control centers between 2012 and 2015.
A 2016 study published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics and conducted by a doctor at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus found that the average rate of marijuana-related visits to the children’s hospital increased from 1.2 incidents per 100,000 children two years prior to marijuana legalization to 2.
3 incidents per 100,000 children two years after legalization.
Pediatric marijuana cases at regional poison control centers in Colorado increased more than five-fold