The sale of marijuana is legal in some states, and while there are many debates about this substance and adult usage, the evidence is clear that developing children should stay away from pot.
Keeping marijuana out of children’s hands might be more difficult now, however, not just because of legalization, but because marijuana is starting to look more and more like candy.
Flavored, edible marijuana was part of the natural evolution of commercialization. Candy-flavored products appeared in medical dispensaries almost immediately, and now the products sport names like “Buddahfinger,” “KeefKat,” “Twixed,” and “Munchy Way” –clear knock-offs of popular brand name candy items. The products are reminiscent to those used by the tobacco industry to allegedly target underage consumers.
“There’s the concern that young children will find these products and eat them, thinking they are ordinary sweets,” Robert MacCoun, a professor at Stanford Law School, told Live Science. “This can be a very traumatic experience, and there are even some indications it can be physically dangerous for young children.”
The use of marijuana among young children has been associated with impaired brain development, though past studies suggested it was chronic, heavy use parents needed to be aware of. Just recently, a research team from the University of Melbourne, Australia, confirmed that just 3 years of regular marijuana use was enough to cause structural abnormalities in the brain’s hippocampus. This significantly impacted long-term memory function in those surveyed.
THC, the active chemical in marijuana, is not well-enough regulated in the new edible products on the market, MacCoun cautioned. Some of the products available contain four times the safe dose of THC in a single serving. “At high doses, THC can produce serious anxiety attacks and psychotic-like symptoms.”
For children, especially those who think they are eating real candy, with no concept of what a “Buddahfinger” really is, the results could be traumatic and terrifying.
But MaCoun isn’t an advocate of going back to the old days when pot was illegal. He and other experts are simply pushing for more regulation when it comes to labeling.
“A package should have a predictable standard dose [and] adequate warning labels, and it should not look like candy or a cola drink,” he said. “Adults who wish to use these products are capable of dealing with packaging that doesn’t resemble ordinary edible sweets.”