Toddlers under the influence of THC, cannabis’ active ingredient, are showing up at Oklahoma hospitals and clinics at an alarming and rising rate, lawmakers were told Monday morning.

“We’ve seen a marked increase,” said Annette Jacobi, executive director of the Oklahoma Commission for Children and Youth. “The data are stunning. It’s just stunning.”

Almost without exception, the youngsters seem to be getting the THC through edible products in their homes, witnesses said. They referred to the overdoses as accidental but did not rule out the possibility that some involved adults trying to quiet rambunctious 2- and 3-year-olds by feeding them THC-laced candy and baked goods.

Research seems to be scarce on cannabis’ effects on very young children, but Monday’s general agreement was that it probably isn’t good, except in carefully regulated doses to treat specific conditions such as seizures.

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“That is not the situation we’re targeting,” said Rep. Cynthia Roe, R-Lindsay, who requested Monday’s interim study.

The actual number of reported THC overdoses among children 5 and younger is apparently relatively small — perhaps in the hundreds — but is increasing rapidly and with unknown consequences for the children involved, members of a task force assembled to look into the situation said.

“In the past year, maybe a little more, we’re seeing an increase in what we’re calling accidental ingestions,” Jacobi told a House of Representatives committee. “It became very apparent that the number of children going to ERs and even perhaps being admitted was increasing. At first you’d see one every few months. (Now) there’s not a week goes by I don’t receive one of these reports, and sometimes multiple.

“We don’t know what the long-term effects are on these little developing brains as well as their physical bodies. This is absolutely a preventable issue,” said Jacobi.

Kristie Edelen, managing director of the Oklahoma Poison Center, and Lauren Kidwell, an epidemiologist with the Oklahoma State Department of Health, confirmed that help line calls and hospital visits for young children who have ingested THC are on the rise and make up the largest demographic share of reported cases.

How many cases are not reported is a matter of speculation.

To be clear, the observable effects of these overdoses are relatively minor.

“My own experience is they’re very, very sleepy,” said Edelin. “When you go to any type of intervention, when you start to mess with them a little bit, they get very agitated and fussy. As soon as you leave them alone they go back to being very, very drowsy,” said Edelen.

But THC overdose can be very unpleasant; there is some dispute as to whether it has ever ended in death, but in any event it is extremely rare. Some people, including young children, end up on ventilators. According to a recent article in the American Journal of Pediatrics, treatment can include such things as intubation and intravenous fluids, which can be traumatic for everyone concerned.

The answer, all agreed, is simple and yet impossible to enforce.

“We want parents to put their product up,” said Jacobi. “Lock it up where kids can’t get it.”

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 Toddlers under the influence of THC, cannabis’ active ingredient, are showing up at Oklahoma hospitals and clinics at an alarming and rising rate, lawmakers were told Monday.  Read More