Marijuana has been legalized for medical use throughout much of the country. Many states have even legalized recreational use, creating easier access for adults. As a result, there has been a recent uptick in children inadvertently ingesting edibles infused with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC – the principal psychoactive component of marijuana), sometimes causing severe effects such as seizure-like activity and breathing difficulties. Kids are very creative and determined and can easily find anything resembling candy, and they will often ingest cannabis edibles in large amounts.

Marijuana-infused edibles have been used by patients looking to relieve a wide variety of ailments. They are often packed in colorful bags and containers that are very attractive to children. In addition, the edibles often come in the form of gummies, hard candies, brownies and even cookies – all items that kids crave from a young age. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, cases of edible cannabis exposure for children less than 6 years old increased from 207 in 2017 to more than 3,000 in 2021.

What to do if your child ingests a cannabis edible

Doctors have seen many of these pediatric exploratory ingestions in specific areas where states legalized recreational marijuana use. However, increased numbers of exposures are being reported nationwide. Marijuana is not harmless to children, particularly after large ingestions, and can result in hospitalization. If you believe your child has ingested marijuana-infused edibles, reach out to your regional poison control center right away (1-800-222-1222). If your child is exhibiting severe signs or symptoms, such as seizure-like activity, inability to awaken or respiratory difficulties, call 911 immediately. While there is a usually a delay in symptom-onset after ingestion, and signs and symptoms can be nonspecific, some edible ingestion warning signs include:

  • Severe lethargy
  • Persistent vomiting
  • Trouble breathing
  • Difficulty getting your child awake
  • Shaking or other seizure-like activity

If you suspect your child has ingested marijuana-infused edibles:

Storing cannabis edibles safely

As many patients are aware, marijuana gummies should be treated like any other prescription drug. Child-resistance products are not always 100% protective. Understand that the packaging, appearance, and the taste of marijuana-infused edibles can be very can be attractive to young children. Always make sure they are securely stored, and preferably locked, somewhere only adults can access. On play dates, it’s okay to have a conversation with the hosting parents on the importance of safely storing child hazards such as marijuana-infused edibles.


Caleb Ward Caleb Ward, MD, is a pediatric emergency medicine physician at Children's National Hospital. Dr Ward has been at Children's National for 10 years and is also the program director for the Emergency Medical Services for Children State Partnership program in D.C.

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