Study Shows Increase in Ingestions of Marijuana by Children in U.S.

June 6, 2019

COLUMBUS, Ohio – As marijuana becomes more accessible to consumers, it also becomes more accessible to young children. In a study published online in Pediatric Emergency Care, researchers at the Central Ohio Poison Center at Nationwide Children’s Hospital examined the relationship between state marijuana legalization and the rates of unintentional ingestions of marijuana in children under six years old.

Study results showed from January 2000 through June 2017 there were 2,968 ingestions of marijuana by children younger than six years old reported to U.S. poison centers. The majority (72.4%) of exposures were in children younger than three years old. More than half of all pediatric patients received some form of hospital-based care, of which 7.5% required critical care. Symptoms in patients ranged widely, from drowsiness and confusion to seizures and coma, and required medical treatments including hydration therapy, sedation and intubation.

“As more states continue to legalize marijuana in various forms, parents and health care providers should treat it like any other medication, locked up and out of reach of children,” said Henry Spiller, MS, D.ABAT, director of the Central Ohio Poison Center at Nationwide Children’s and lead author of the study. “With edibles and infused products especially, curious children are mistaking them for kid-friendly candy or food, and that poses a very real risk for harm.”

Prior to 2009, there was no significant change in the annual number or rate of marijuana ingestions in children. From 2009 to 2017, however, there was a mean annual increase of 27% per year, rising to 742 ingestions per year. More than 70% of all cases occurred in states with legalized marijuana.

Data for this study were collected by the National Poison Data System (NPDS).

About the Central Ohio Poison Center at Nationwide Children’s Hospital
The Central Ohio Poison Center at Nationwide Children’s Hospital provides state-of-the-art poison prevention, assessment and treatment to residents in 64 of Ohio’s 88 counties. The center services are available to the public, medical professionals, industry, and human service agencies. The Poison Center handles more than 42,000 poison exposure calls annually, and confidential, free emergency poisoning treatment advice is available 24/7. To learn more about the Poison Center, visit