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Published on June 21, 2024
Sharp Rise in Cannabis Edible Exposure Among Illinois Children, McHenry County Responds with Health WarningsSource: Unsplash/ Esteban López

The Illinois Poison Center has reported a significant increase in the number of children under the age of five experiencing exposure to cannabis edibles. In 2023, the center noted 244 such cases—a stark rise from the 37 cases reported in 2019 before state legalization, according to a report by the Chicago Tribune. Dr. Leslie Mendoza Temple, a member of the state Medical Cannabis Advisory Board, has issued a warning against unauthorized use by kids, stating that leaving edibles out "is a recipe for disaster."

In conjunction with these findings, recent assertions have also surfaced to possibly connect increased cannabis use among youth with heightened self-harm risks. McHenry County, for instance, has begun requiring cannabis dispensaries to prominently display warnings about potential mental health risks, including psychosis and increased thoughts of suicide, particularly for frequent users. This move comes as provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a national spike in suicide deaths, as relayed by The Center Square. Will Jones from Smart Approaches to Marijuana highlighted numerous accounts of suicide where marijuana is cited as a contributing factor.

The upsurge in pediatric edible exposures aligns with national trends, showing a staggering 1,375% increase from 2017 to 2021. "Keeping them locked out of sight and out of reach" is imperative, said Dr. Michael Wahl, medical director of the Illinois Poison Center, emphasizing the need to consider edibles as medicine. Adults are urged to secure them away from the communal areas of the home and store them in child-proof packaging.

Furthermore, a study conducted by researchers from the University of Illinois Chicago School of Public Health has identified a 10% increase in motor-vehicle accident deaths in states where recreational cannabis has been legalized. Such research, highlighted by The Center Square, adds to the complexities of the broader impact of cannabis legalization on health and safety. Jones remarked that there's been an uptick of health emergencies linked to cannabis, and first responders are noting an increased number of cannabis-related calls.