Earlier this year, French President Emmanuel Macron and the newly elected government unveiled their plan to decriminalize the possession of marijuana. The news was certainly welcomed by the country’s cannabis users, which is now recognized as one of the largest in all of Europe. But France’s newfound progress towards pot legalization could be dampened by a new study that suggests highly potent marijuana is sending toddlers to the emergency room in record numbers.
Between 2004 and 2014, admissions for accidental marijuana intoxication at French pediatric emergency departments increased by more than twofold. The research shows a 133 percent rise in these types of cases among children under age 6. There have been 235 reported children that were admitted for cannabis-related intoxication, showing various symptoms such as drowsiness, seizures, altered consciousness, and euphoria. Out of those total visits to the emergency room, more than 70 percent were under 18 months old. Hashish, the most popular form of cannabis in France, was the cause of intoxication in 169 cases.
"I was surprised by the increase of admissions in my unit for cannabis unintentional intoxication among toddlers and by the increase of severe presentation after children had eaten part or a entire cannabis resin stick," said Dr. Isabelle Claudet, head the pediatric emergency department at Hopital des Enfants in Toulouse and lead author of the study.
While a majority of the children had lighter symptoms like drowsiness or euphoria, 35 percent of the intoxicated toddlers were brought to the emergency room for more severe issues, such as comatose or respiratory failure. On top of that, French poison control centers have reported a 312 percent increase of these types of cannabis-related exposures.
This troubling trend has lurked far beyond the borders of France, also stirring alarm in Colorado, a state with full-scale recreational legalization. Back in 2014, the Children’s Hospital Colorado emergency department saw the number of children admitted for accidentally eating marijuana double over just a single year. In turn, this information galvanized lawmakers into passing stricter restrictions on cannabis edibles.
In France, the most widely used form of cannabis is hashish, a concentrated resin that has shown a steep increase in potency. Over the course of the study period, the amount of THC found in the country's hashish skyrocketed from 9.3 percent per gram to 20.7 percent per gram. This THC jump could certainly correlate with the alarming rise in pediatric emergency room visits.
However, as marijuana use remains illegal in France, there is little that lawmakers can do to ensure that pot is safely packaged and childproof. Therefore, it's up to the parents to keep their stash hidden away safely from their kids.