STONED: Surge In New York Kids Getting Sick After Accidentally Eating Cannabis Candy


An increasing number of New York children are getting stoned and accidentally consuming cannabis-infused candies, resulting in some severe cases of illness, following the state’s expansion of marijuana legalization.

Stony Brook University Hospital on Long Island has reported a notable rise in children experiencing prolonged or severe toxic reactions after unintentionally ingesting marijuana-laced edibles like gummies. The cases surged from five in 2020 to 14 in 2021 and 13 in the following year. Between 2017 and 2019, there were only four such cases, according to Dr. Candice Foy, a pediatrician at SUNY Stony Brook Children’s Hospital.

“Kids are excited to get candy,” said Foy. “We had a grandma who passed a cannabis edible to a child by mistake.”

New York legalized adult-use marijuana in 2021, leading to the emergence of a sizable illicit market of smoke shops.

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Young children who consume these edibles may exhibit symptoms such as drowsiness, slurred speech, impaired coordination, lethargy, dry mouth, dilated pupils, red eyes, rapid heart rate, and vomiting. In severe cases, children have required intubation for breathing difficulties or IV treatment for dehydration.

The affected children ranged in age from 1 to 11, according to an analysis conducted by Stony Brook’s medical experts.

Children may mistake THC-infused candies for regular sweets, and it takes only a small amount of cannabis to make a young child ill. For instance, a 30-pound toddler consuming just 2.5 milligrams, a fraction of a typical 10-mg edible, could exceed the toxic threshold for illness.

These cannabis-infused candies have been found by toddlers and young children in purses, cabinets, and even the refrigerator or freezer. Dr. Foy shared an example: “A kid looking for an ice pop found cannabis in the freezer.”

While a majority of the cases involved cannabis gummies, others included pot-laced brownies and THC-infused chocolate bars.

Under state law, doctors are obligated to report suspected cases of parental neglect or child abuse when children are admitted to the hospital for marijuana ingestion, regardless of whether it was accidental.

“A lot of times it’s a mistake made by a good parent,” Foy noted.

These findings in New York align with a study conducted in Colorado, another state with recreational marijuana legalization. Researchers in Colorado found 151 cases of children under the age of 6 consuming edible cannabis between 2015 and 2022. Over half of them met the criteria for “harmful exposure.” The typical age of the children was three, and the average THC ingested was 2.1 mg.

In response to these incidents, New York has introduced rules that mandate child-resistant packaging for cannabis edibles. However, Dr. Foy emphasized that edibles should be stored securely and out of reach of children.

Parents concerned about their children’s potential cannabis exposure can call the Poison Center Hotline at 800 222-1222 for immediate medical advice while seeking help at the emergency room.

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