Keeping our Teens Drug and Alcohol Free

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Candy or Cannabis?

Safety Tips for Parents

Is it safe when your child sneaks a watermelon ice pop from the freezer or helps themselves to a rice crispy treat at a friend’s house?

Why is it hard to tell the difference?
Unfortunately, sweet treats and marijuana edibles often look very similar, especially to an unsuspecting child or teen. Without the packaging, it is nearly impossible to know if gummies, chocolate and cookies are infused with components of marijuana such as THC. And the packaging itself is often a temptation for children, as they mimic their candy counterparts such as Skittles and Oreos, with only small differences and fine print which a child is not likely to notice.

What are the risks for children?
During the summer, ingestion of marijuana edibles by children, the risk of accidental exposure and the resulting emergency room visits all increase. Symptoms of accidental ingestion include drowsiness, loss of muscle coordination or control, increased heart rate and coma.

Because youth are smaller than adults, and their brains are still developing, the impact of marijuana on their bodies is much greater. While a 10 mg gummy bear may be an initial dose for an adult user, it’s a large dose for a child. Most THC-infused chocolate bars contain 10 times that amount with a dose of 10 mg in each small square of the chocolate bar. Larger edibles like rice crispy bars may contain up to 500 mg. While the intention is that adults portion these products into smaller doses, it is likely a child would eat more than one gummy or an entire cookie.

What can you do?

  • Teach your child to ALWAYS ask a trusted adult before consuming something they’re not sure about.
  • The best course of action is to not have marijuana in homes with children, so they can’t mistake it for a sweet treat.

If you do have marijuana at home, here are some safety recommendations:

  • Store all marijuana products out of sight and in a secure place, just like any other prescription medication. Consider a filing cabinet or lockbox.
  • Monitor your supply regularly and investigate immediately if something is missing.
  • Refrain from using marijuana in front of youth. Children learn from adults what is safe to eat. Additionally, state law prohibits marijuana use in close physical proximity to anyone under 21.
  • Do not give marijuana to minors. It is against the law for those under 21 to use or possess marijuana unless they have a state-issued registry card.
  • If you suspect your child ate any amount of cannabis, call the Illinois Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222 immediately. The call is free and confidential. If your child is unconscious or having difficulty breathing, call 911.

For more on the state law, see CTAD’s fact sheet Marijuana Facts: Health & Illinois Law.

Sources: 2021 Red Ribbon Week presentation to Deerfield Public Schools District 109 by School Resource Officer Lauren Maldonado; Illinois Poison Center Blog, February 2020; Big Candy is Angry, New York Times, 5/22/2021