Edible Cannabis: how to protect your kids from unintentional poisoning

I’ll never forget the feeling of panic when I saw my 3 year-old holding a bottle of household cleaner. I left a cupboard door unlocked in the bathroom as I went to answer my phone. Fortunately, he only looked at it. At that time, edible cannabis was not on my list of potential safety concerns. If I were to have a young child now, that list would be different.

In Canada, the number of young children hospitalized after the ingestion of cannabis has increased since cannabis legislation. Between September and December 2018, sixteen cases of severe reactions were reported to the Canadian Paediatric Surveillance Program.

Girl's Hand Reaching For Cupcake On Kitchen Counter

Young children, especially infants and toddlers, learn through exploring, using touch, smell, taste, sight and hearing. They are curious about everything.  It’s as if they are little scientists asking themselves: What is this? What happens if I shake it? What happens if I smell it, taste it? And preschoolers are curious about items found in drawers and cabinets.

In this story, my son got into an unlocked cupboard of household cleaners. The same can happen with edible cannabis. Whether you as a parent use edible cannabis or not, you may be in a home where others use edible cannabis. It’s important to take steps to keep our kids safe.

What is edible cannabis?

Edible cannabis includes any food or drink that contains cannabis. Edible cannabis frequently has a high content of the chemical THC which can cause poisoning.

Important tips for preventing poisoning in children by edible cannabis:

Safety plastic lock for kid protection

  1. Keep all edible cannabis in its labelled, child-resistant packaging.
  2. Lock up all edible cannabis using a safe, lock box, locking bag, or a lock on a cupboard. Make sure your child can’t see or reach this safe storage space.
  3. Put edible cannabis products away after every use, even if you plan on using it again later.
  4. Always throw away leftover pieces of edible cannabis, cannabis ashes or unfinished smoked cannabis and be sure your child can’t get into the garbage.
  5. Ask your guests to  put purses, coats or bags that have cannabis products in a safe place while they are in your home.
  6. If you use a babysitter, ensure they are mature, responsible and recommended by someone you trust. Before they come to babysit, ask them not to bring or use any cannabis products while caring for your child.
  7. How you store cannabis products may change as children grow. What was safe storage for young children may not be safe for older children or teens.

How does edible cannabis affect children?

Young children are at more risk for poisoning due to their light weight. The effects can vary from mild to severe. Since the food needs to be digested, the symptoms may not appear until 20 minutes to hours afterwards. Watch for:

  • Sleepiness
  • Unable to wake
  • Trouble breathing
  • Poor coordination
  • Tremors
  • Slurred speech
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

If you know or suspect that your child ate or drank cannabis, call 911 for help right away.

Once your child is on the move, every day is a new adventure! It’s an exciting and fun stage of life, but there are risks and dangers too. Share your suggestions for keeping children safe from unintentional poisonings.

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For parenting information or to speak with a Public Health Nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) simply call 311 or 905-825-6000

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