Between the first and second half of 2023, cannabis-related pediatric emergency department visits in Virginia declined 21.5% from 1,429 visits to 1,122 visits.

RICHMOND, Va. — The number of pediatric patients visiting Virginia hospital emergency departments for cannabis exposure, intoxication, and related medical concerns has declined in the second half of 2023 after a new law took effect.

A new state law regulates the production, sale, and potency of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) contained in commercial hemp products or extracts.  It also requires cannabis products to have clear labels that disclose ingredients and it places limits on the chemical concentration the products contain to no more than 0.3 percent THC or a 25:1 ratio of cannabidiol (CBD) to THC. 

The law took effect on July 1, 2023.

RELATED: VDH creates surveillance system for reports of children exposed to THC, CBD amid rise in hospitalizations

“This law was introduced to protect Virginia children and families from being harmed by ingesting unregulated, intoxicating products that can pose serious health risks,” said Delegate Terry Kilgore (R-Gate City), who sponsored House Bill 2294 that was approved in 2023 to regulate THC-infused products. “So, it is certainly welcome news to see that this policy change appears to be having a positive effect in terms of declining pediatric emergency department visits due to cannabis exposure.”

Since the law took effect, cannabis-related pediatric visits have dropped 14.2% from the third and fourth quarters of 2022 (1,307 visits) compared to the same time period in 2023 (1,122 visits).

From 2020-2023, there were 8,401 pediatric emergency department visits for cannabis use and intoxication involving kids from infancy to 18 years old. 

State Health Commissioner Dr. Karen Shelton wrote that reported health impacts on children who consumed those products “have included vomiting, hallucinations, low blood pressure, low blood sugar, altered mental status and anxiety; some hospitalizations have occurred.”

“The recent decline in pediatric hospital visits is a positive sign that last year’s bipartisan legislation is working,” said Virginians for Cannabis Safety spokesman Ryan McKinnon. “Still, much work remains to raise public awareness, enforce existing laws and protect consumers, especially children, from these dangerous products.”

The Virginians for Cannabis Safety coalition including the Medical Society of Virginia, the Virginia Association of School Nurses, the Virginia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Virginia College of Emergency Physicians, VHHA, the Virginia Sheriffs’ Association, the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police, and the Virginia State Police Association supported the updating of the law.

The Virginia Department of Health established a special surveillance system to characterize the burden and impact of adverse events caused by THC and CBD consumption for children in the Commonwealth.

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