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Massachusetts pediatric poisonings rising with growth of cannabis sales



By Michael P. Norton

MARCH 7, 2022…..State officials are seeing an increase in pediatric exposure to cannabis products, and there is an effort afoot to respond with a public information campaign.

“We really feel as if much more information needs to be out there,” Patricia Henley of the Department of Public Health said Monday morning.

Henley told fellow members of a Cannabis Advisory Board Public Health Subcommittee that officials received 210 calls in 2020 about “accidental pediatric poisonings” involving cannabis edibles or flower.

“Essentially what our Injury Prevention Program has been seeing is an increase in pediatric exposure to cannabis products,” Henley said.

In addition, the state Office of The Child Advocate has noted an increase in reporting of suspected abuse and neglect “because of pediatric cannabis exposure,” Henley said.

The Department of Public Health is developing a campaign to revise and update its educational materials, with a focus on responsible use, safe storage, and exposure to secondhand marijuana smoke, Henley said.

During a brief discussion, board members said Boston Children’s Hospital had raised concerns about an increase in calls to the poison control line and suggested partnering with other organizations on messaging to parents, including the state chapter of the American Academy of Pediatricians.

Henley said that while the state has been spending money to develop a campaign, additional funds may be needed to reach people with messaging.

“We don’t know what our budget’s going to be next year and whether there’ll be much money for the dissemination of it,” she said.

Lawmakers are currently assembling a state budget for fiscal 2023, which begins on July 1.

One board member said the Cannabis Control Commission had requested $1 million in public education funding, which could include a focus on “youth prevention.”

After voters in 2016 passed a legalization law, the first stores to begin selling cannabis for recreational use in Massachusetts opened in late 2018.

The commission last September reported that adult-use marijuana establishments in Massachusetts had surpassed $2 billion in gross sales, based on data reported by 165 retailers and three delivery businesses.

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