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Canadian Paediatric Society

Put kids first when regulating cannabis edibles, paediatricians urge

Mar 4 2019

OTTAWA – Although recreational cannabis use is legal only among adults in Canada, almost three times as many youths aged 15-24 are using the drug. The Canadian Paediatric Society is urging Health Canada to put the health of children and youth first when developing regulations for cannabis edibles, extracts and topicals.

Adolescent cannabis use is linked to several negative health indicators, such as substance use disorders, mental illnesses, and diminished school performance. “Early use of cannabis – in the teenage years – is where we see the greatest hazards that may result in long-lasting impacts,” said Dr. Richard Bélanger, a paediatrician and adolescent health specialist at Université Laval. “Youth are becoming more aware of these risks but there is still much education to be done.”

The CPS is concerned about the unintended consumption of cannabis edibles by young children. Rates of acute medical care and hospitalization for children who have unintentionally ingested cannabis—through products such as chocolate or gummy bears—have increased dramatically in recent years.

“Cannabis toxicity in children can cause shallow breathing, severe drowsiness and seizures,” said Dr. Christina Grant of McMaster University, “requiring emergency care in paediatric settings.”

The inexperience of adolescents and young adults when using edibles and other potent cannabis products has also been highlighted as a reason for the increased rate of intoxicated individuals seen in European and North American emergency rooms.

Health Canada recently completed a public consultation as it prepares to develop regulations for a variety of cannabis-infused products. In its submission to Health Canada, the CPS recommended:

  • Prohibit products that appeal to children – including those packaged to look like candy/treats (cookies/brownies).
  • Prohibit cannabis products that are combined with alcohol, caffeine or nicotine.
  • Fund public education campaigns, in collaboration with youth leaders, to raise awareness of the risks of cannabis use in adolescence.
  • Fund public education campaigns for parents to store and lock cannabis products properly in order to keep them away from children and toddlers
  • Increase funding for research, prevention and treatment of substance abuse and mental illness in adolescents.
  • Actively monitor impacts of cannabis legalization on youth and adjust regulations as necessary.

The CPS’ full submission to Health Canada can be read here. Drs. Christina Grant and Richard Bélanger are the authors of the CPS position statement on cannabis and lead investigators in a current Canadian Paediatric Surveillance Program study monitoring serious adverse and life-threatening events in youth from recreational cannabis use.

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Last updated: Mar 4 2019