SEATTLE (Reuters) - The number of children treated annually for accidental pot consumption in Colorado has reached double-digits and a drug treatment chain has seen a surge of teens treated for cannabis abuse, a leading U.S. anti-marijuana group said on Monday.
In a report, marijuana legalization foe Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) also pointed to higher-than-average use in the first states to sanction recreational cannabis, Colorado and Washington state, and an increase in burns from butane hash oil production.
“We need a pumping-of-the-brakes on the marijuana industry,” SAM’s president, Kevin Sabet, said in an interview. “When we have hospitalizations and burns and deaths, we need to stop many of these products from being sold.”
The report comes amid rapidly shifting state laws governing marijuana use. Voters in four U.S. states opted to legalize its recreational use, most recently in Oregon and Alaska. Marijuana remains illegal under federal law.
Legalization opponents say Washington state and Colorado have been flooded with dangerous products, from infused candies and concentrates, many far stronger than what might have been smoked in the 1960s.
At least 14 Colorado children ages 3 to 7 were sent to hospitals in the first half of 2014 for accidentally ingesting marijuana products, compared with eight in 2013 and four between 2008 and 2011, SAM said of state data.
In Colorado, teen marijuana abuse treatment at about a dozen Arapahoe House Denver-area facilities increased by 66 percent between 2011 and 2014, SAM cited that group as reporting.
Separately on Monday, Colorado health officials announced a $4 million Internet, television and radio public-education campaign aimed at exposing the dangers of cannabis-infused products and aspects of the law.
Use among people ages 18 and older from 2011-2013 in Colorado and Washington has risen about 3 percentage points, from roughly 16 to 19 percent and from 15 to 18 percent, respectively, SAM said, citing federal data. The national average is about 12 percent.
The University of Colorado observed 17 cases of marijuana-related burns in 2014 and 11 cases in 2013, largely from botched butane hash oil extractions, with one case each in the three years prior, SAM said.
“Trying to draw any conclusions with less than one year of data is irresponsible,” pro-cannabis Marijuana Policy Project spokesman Mason Tvert said.
He said research on pot has drawn conflicting results and has been limited by the federal ban.
Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Additional reporting by Keith Coffman in Denver; Editing by Leslie Adler and Eric Beech