January 5, 2015 / 10:29 PM / 3 years ago

Stricter controls needed after surge in marijuana ills: U.S. anti-pot group

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.

A grower holds out a product at the High Times U.S. Cannabis Cup in Seattle, Washington September 8, 2013. REUTERS/Jason Redmond

In a report that urged stricter cannabis controls, Smart Approaches to Marijuana also pointed to higher-than-average marijuana use in the first two states to legalize recreational pot, Colorado and Washington, and an increase in burns from butane hash oil production.

“We need a pumping-of-the-brakes on the marijuana industry,” the group’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 the use of marijuana, which voters in four U.S. states have opted to legalize for recreational use, most recently in Oregon and Alaska. The drug remains illegal under federal law.

Opponents say Washington state and Colorado have been flooded with dangerous products, from infused candies and concentrates, many far stronger than what hippies might have smoked in the 1960s.

At least 14 children ages 3 to 7 in Colorado were sent to hospitals in the first half of 2014 for accidentally ingesting marijuana products. That compares with eight in 2013 and four between 2008 and 2011, the group said of state data.

In Colorado, teen marijuana abuse treatment at about a dozen Arapahoe House Denver-area treatment facilities increased by 66 percent between 2011 and 2014, the group cited that group as reporting.

Overall 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 in Colorado, and from 15 to 18 percent in Washington, the group 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, the majority from botched butane hash oil extractions, with one case each in the three years prior, the group said.

The pro-cannabis Marijuana Policy Project said ill effects of pot on children was of huge concern but that thousands of children were treated annually for consuming household cleaners and other substances, and that research has drawn conflicting results and been limited by the federal ban.

“Trying to draw any conclusions with less than one year of data is irresponsible,” spokesman Mason Tvert said.

Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Leslie Adler

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