Monday, July 1, 2013

Children at Risk with Legal Marijuana

Marijuana legalization is fast becoming a reality for residents of some states, although it remains illegal under the federal laws that govern much of  Indian Country. Many states permit medicinal use of marijuana, while voters in Colorado and Washington have legalized recreational use by adults.

The National Alliance for Drug Endangered Children asked leading experts in Washington and Colorado to comment on the effect that they expect legal marijuana to have. Esther Larsen from the Washington Alliance for DEC, responded,
"Perception of associated risks has decreased, most notably among youth and adolescents according to Washington State's Healthy Youth Survey. The majority of all youth drug treatment admissions are for marijuana, both legal and illegal, with an increase of 20% from 2007 to 2012, according to Washington's Division of Behavioral Health and Recovery. Washington State's Toxicology Laboratory lists marijuana consistently as the most common drug detected among impaired drivers with drugs present in their blood."
Jade Woodard, Executive Director of Colorado Drug Endangered Children, added,
"There are many ways in which children will be impacted by marijuana legalization. Due to the legalization, it is estimated that marijuana use will increase, therefore increasing the risk of children experiencing abuse or neglect as a result of impaired caregivers. Significant concerns have been raised about the risk to children of ingesting infused marijuana products. A recent article in JAMA Pediatrics outlines the increase that has been seen in unintentional ingestion of marijuana or marijuana products by children. These children have displayed symptoms such as non-arousability and respiratory distress with some children actually being admitted into the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. Additionally, research by National Jewish Hospital and Colorado Drug Investigators Association identified significant health hazards of indoor marijuana cultivation, especially for children. Finally, an ongoing concern of marijuana legalization centers around the increase in teen marijuana use and concerns regarding the diversion of marijuana to those under age 21. There are reports of increased rates of school suspensions, expulsions, and dropouts related to teen marijuana use. It is critical that training, education, and monitoring of the impacts of marijuana legalization on children and families be prioritized for Colorado."
We hope the political leaders of these states will heed Ms. Woodard's words.

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