The amount of cannabis related poison control calls involving children and teenagers has doubled in the state of Massachusetts. The legalization of marijuana continues to be a controversial topic, with a range of different opinions regarding its safety and purpose.
The first recreational marijuana stores opened in Massachusetts on November 20, 2018. The decriminalization process began in November of 2016. Individuals twenty-one-years of age and older are able to possess, and consume marijuana in the state. However, those under the age of twenty one will face civil fines if caught with cannabis
There continue to be issues regarding safety, especially in regard to children and teens following its legalization. After medical marijuana became legal in Massachusetts, it was found that there was an increase in calls to the Regional Center for Poison Control and Prevention at Boston Children’s Hospital.
The public health investigation, led by the University of Massachusetts Amherst injury prevention researcher Jennifer Whitehill, found that despite proper warning labels and packaging, marijuana is finding its way into the hands of those it shouldn't. Whitehill reports that, "as states across the country enact more permissive marijuana policies, we need to do more to promote safe storage in households with children."
The research team analyzed data from the center from 2009 to 2016. This included four years prior to legalization, and four years after the legalization of medical marijuana in Massachusetts. The poison control center found that among 218 calls, exposure in children from infants to nineteen-years-old included, “98 single-substance calls and 120 polysubstance calls."
Most cases of exposure were minor, with four cases resulting in major effects. No deaths were reported. A quarter of the instances were unintentional, and calls about edible cannabis increased among most age groups. The amount of teenagers using marijuana since legalization hasn’t’ increased. However, Whitehill states that they may be unaware of the effects of edibles, and further education and protection is needed.
Whitehill says that she “expects the calls to the poison control center to increase even more” with the recent legalization of recreational marijuana in Massachusetts. She also states that more research is needed in order to determine the impact of marijuana legalization on adults.