Concern growing over unregulated edible cannabis products
Edible cannabis products aren't legal in Canada, but they are being bought, sold and consumed regardless.
A recent case in Nova Scotia has health experts warning about the possible risks for children.
Chris Henderson, the owner of the Cannabis Vape Shop, says it’s important to read the labels.
“They do have a good amount of information on them, but you want to know it's accurate,” Henderson said.
Some bags of cannabis edibles look like they contain candy, and because they exist in an illegal market, there aren't any rules in place for controlling how they're made, and how they're packaged.
“Right now, it's up the air as to whether or not these have actually been tested, whether somebody’s assumption or whether they did the math properly, you know, things like that,” Henderson said.
He says, as with any cannabis product, education and responsible use is important.
“I think being responsible with these products is important when you have young children around,” Henderson said. “Even children that are becoming adults.”
That topic is top of mind right now, after a four-year-old girl from Nova Scotia was taken to hospital last weekend.
She ate what she thought was a chocolate bar, but it contained cannabis.
Her father immediately called 911 and the girl was rushed to hospital, where she was treated and released.
Dr. Nancy Murphy is an emergency doctor at the IWK Health Centre's Poison Control Centre. She says there have been a few cases of children - and adults - coming to the emergency department after accidentally ingesting cannabis products. She says edibles are a particular concern.
“Edibles are a little trickier because of the fact that they typically aren’t packaged in a child-resistant manner, and also they tend to use packaging that’s very attractive and you can see the product inside,” Murphy said.
She says if a child consumes cannabis, there are signs to watch for.
“In a very small child, in a baby, it might just be that they’re excessively sleepy, they're not eating or drinking, they're not able to roll over, sit up, do all their usual things,” she said.
Murphy says if a parent thinks their child has ingested cannabis in any form, and the child is lethargic, and having trouble breathing, to bring the child to an emergency room right away.
Even if the child doesn't show symptoms, Murphy says to call the poison control centre for expert advice.
Laws in New Brunswick will require cannabis products to be locked up at home once it's legal, but there's no such plan in Nova Scotia.
Murphy says cannabis should be treated like any dangerous substance and kept out of reach.
“Purses, or putting something in the fridge, or the car, or in your desk drawer, all of these places that you think, ‘they won't look there’ -- they do,” she said.
The state of Colorado did a study after it legalized recreational cannabis in 2014. It looked at numbers of children exposed to cannabis both two years before and two years after, and it did find an increase in the number of cases. The IWK Poison Control Centre has partnered with other poison control centres across Canada and Health Canada to do its own tracking.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Heidi Petracek.