As cannabis becomes a legal drug in Canada, remember it can be poisonous to children
This page was last reviewed on October 10, 2018
TORONTO, October 10, 2018 – As cannabis becomes a legal drug for adults in Canada one week from today, Canada’s leading charity dedicated to injury prevention, along with the nation’s poison control centres, remind Canadians that this drug, just like alcohol and prescription drugs, can do serious harm to children and needs to be stored securely.
“Unintentional cannabis ingestion by children is a serious public health concern and is well-documented in numerous studies and case reports,” says Steve Podborski, President and CEO, Parachute. “Store all cannabis products as you would medications and other potentially toxic products – locked up and out of reach in child-resistant packaging or containers.”
Dr. Margaret Thompson, Medical Director Ontario, Manitoba & Nunavut Poison Centres, and President of the Canadian Association of Poison Control Centres, says that every poison centre in Canada has reported increased exposures to cannabis, including for those under age 18. A tracking study by the Ontario, Manitoba and Nunavut poison centres shows that, from 2013 to 2017, there was a 50-per-cent increase – from 116 to 234 annually – of calls concerning cannabis exposure for toddlers to those age 18.
The onus is on adults to protect children in their homes if adults choose to use cannabis, says Podborski. “Right now, there are no regulations for safe storage of cannabis products, such as child-resistant packages or warning labels. That’s why it’s crucial to store all cannabis products in a locked space out of the reach of kids.”
And while edible cannabis products won’t be legal in Canada until 2019, parents and other adults need to remember that edibles look like the sweet snacks most kids love: from brownies to gummy bears, a child can’t see the difference between an edible and the same products without cannabis.
Children are more sensitive to the effects of the active ingredients in cannabis, Thompson says. “Cannabis can be detrimental to the developing brain and has been linked to the precipitation of psychosis in youth. A child may be naïve to cannabis and may have unexpected effects from an exposure.”
The poison centres and Parachute will mount a social media awareness campaign beginning Oct. 17, legalization day, about the detrimental effects of cannabis on children, and how to prevent them being accidentally exposed to it, using the hashtag #PotCanPoisonKids.
If you choose to have cannabis in your home, follow these safety tips to ensure children are not accidentally exposed to the drug.
Cannabis Safety and Exposure Prevention tips
- Storage: Store all cannabis products as you would medications and other potentially toxic products – locked up and out of reach in child-resistant packaging or containers. Clearly label cannabis edibles, and store them in their original packaging.
- Use and supervision: Never consume cannabis in any form in front of children, either for medical or recreational purposes. Not only can seeing the products create temptation, but using them may impair your ability to provide a safe environment. Always put cannabis products back into the child-resistant packaging and in the locked and out-of-reach location immediately after using them: be particularly vigilant cleaning up after a party, removing any remnants of alcohol and drugs.
- Talk to family members, friends and caregivers: Unintentional cannabis exposure sources can be from a parent, but grandparents, other family members, neighbors, friends, and babysitters were also sources. Ask anyone whose home your children spend time in if they use cannabis. If a relative, friend or caregiver does, make sure he or she stores it safely and does not use them in front of your children or while watching them.
- Keep the number of your local poison control centre number near the phone. If your child eats cannabis unintentionally, contact your provincial poison information centre. If your province or territory does not have a poison control centre, dial 911.
Contact and to request media interviews:
Kelley Teahen, Director, Communications & Marketing, Parachute
647-776-5128 (office) or 416 886-0950 (mobile)
Parachute is Canada’s national charity dedicated to reducing the devastating impact of preventable injuries. Injury is the No. 1 killer of Canadians ages 1 to 44, where one child dies every nine hours. The financial toll is staggering, with injury c osting the Canadian economy $27 billion a year. Through education and advocacy, Parachute works to save lives and create a Canada free of serious injuries. For more information, visit us at parachute.ca and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.
Canadian Association of Poison Control Centres
The Canadian Association of Poison Control Centres is an umbrella organization representing all Canadian Poison Centres, their specialists in poison information (nurses and pharmacists) and physician toxicologists. Among other responsibilities, their mandate includes offering real-time advice to Canadians who have a potential or real exposure and to assist health care professionals to manage the poisoned patient and offering poisoning prevention strategies so that exposures do not occur. Accessing the Poison Centres for each province is not mandated. Statistics available may underrepresent the true number of total exposures that occur.