Arizona Medical Leaders Alarmed By Rising Marijuana Poisoning In Children

Arizona Medical Leaders Alarmed By Rising Marijuana Poisoning In Children

By Corinne Murdock |

The number of Arizona children poisoned by cannabis ingestion has more than quadrupled since the state legalized recreational marijuana.

Last year, there were 394 pediatric cases of cannabis poisoning; 60 percent of those required a hospital visit. This year-over-year spike in poisonings prompted the Arizona Dispensaries Association (ADA) and the Arizona Poison Centers to create a partnership to raise awareness. One of the campaigns will work to place signs in dispensary windows containing a QR code guiding consumers to the ADA website with information and education about safe cannabis usage.

Steve Dudley, Director of the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center, claimed that increasing public education and encouraging safer storage of cannabis products would lead to a reduction in these types of poisonings.

“Thankfully we know that with proper education and safe storage we can dramatically reduce these exposures and hospitalizations,” said Dudley. “We must do a better job at distinguishing toxicity from regulated products purchased at dispensaries and unregulated products from the black-market including spice and delta-8 THC.”

Yet, other states to legalize marijuana in recent decades haven’t seen increased public awareness make a dent in the ever-rising number of child cannabis consumption.

Colorado has similar regulations to prevent children from consuming cannabis products: barring the manufacture of edibles in the shape of a human, animal, or fruit; requiring sales in child-resistant packaging; prohibiting the words “candy” or “candies” on cannabis product packaging; prohibiting cartoon characters in cannabis product advertising; and requiring the inclusion of the universal THC symbol on all packaging and stamped on all edible products.

Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Division indirectly admitted in an interview with KHN that these regulations do little to curb the increasing number of children ingesting cannabis products.

“When asked whether the mandates are effective, [Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division spokesperson Shannon] Gray said the Marijuana Enforcement Division has ‘observed material compliance with these regulations’ among marijuana businesses,” stated KHN. 

For children, marijuana results in problems walking, sitting up, and breathing; some develop seizures. The CDC declared that child marijuana poisonings have increased wherever marijuana has been legalized. Colorado’s marijuana exposures nearly doubled the year after they legalized it, 2015; these numbers reflected a five-fold increase from 2009. In 2021, the Maricopa County Poison Control Centers reported 163 pediatric cannabis poisonings, 108 of which warranted hospital admission or emergency treatment, compared with 86 reported poisonings in 2020. 

The CDC warned that children are more susceptible to the brain-damaging results of marijuana: memory, learning, attention, decision-making, coordination, emotion, and reaction time. 

The CDC also notes that long-term or frequent marijuana use has been linked to psychosis or schizophrenia.

According to America’s Poison Centers (APC) National Poison Data System (NPDS), the nation’s warehouse for the nation’s 55 poison centers, there were over 7,000 children under 5 exposed to cannabinoid in 2021, over 2,300 from ages 6-12, and nearly 4,700 from ages 13-19.

Arizona legalized recreational marijuana in November 2020 through Proposition 207, which included guardrails that were supposed to prevent these pediatric poisonings: requiring manufacturers and dispensaries to use child-resistant packaging and banning the sale of cannabis products in the form of gummy worms and gummy bears. Yet, the number of pediatric poisonings has steadily increased.

Ninth Circuit Court Judge Roopali Desai authored the ballot initiative summary for Prop 207 while she was a lawyer in Phoenix. The Biden administration nominated her to the court last year.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to