The 58-year-old man was transported to the hospital and that his daughter quickly alerted law enforcement his symptoms were likely related to brownies she had baked, the sheriff’s office said. Marijuana both for recreational and medical use remains illegal in Michigan and the incident is under investigation.
But the incident also shows the kind of complications that have occurred elsewhere as marijuana edibles have become more common and more states consider legalizing medical or recreational marijuana.
Dr. Sam Wong, emergency room doctor at Children's Hospital Colorado, said they’ve had many children arrive in the ER in such circumstances, with parents having had no idea their child ingested edibles.
“With kids, when they come to ER, at least half the time we don’t know they got into marijuana,” he said.
Only adults over the age of 21 can possess and consume marijuana products in Colorado under state law.
Wong cited a range of symptoms that children can present with if they ingest marijuana including laughing or giggling, lethargy, muscle seizures or, in severe cases, unconsciousness and breathing issues.
"We don’t see panic or anxiety. It’s mostly sleepiness," said Wong. "They’ll say, 'He’s just wanted to take more naps today,' or, 'I couldn’t wake him up. ... When he got up he couldn’t walk.’"
Wong said the edibles look similar to candy or other foods, which can make it hard for children to tell the difference. Parents also don't realize their children were able to get to the marijuana-infused products until a doctor asks them about it.
Wong said not knowing if a child was exposed to marijuana can create complications during treatment and lead to extra procedures.
“A lot of these kids get blood draws and lumbar punctures and CT scans of the head,” said Wong, procedures that can have a small risk of complications. “[In] an ideal case, we know the exposure and know the amount [of marijuana], and don’t have to do further tests.”
A 2014-published study in the Journal of American Medicine by the University of Colorado found a rise in children showing up in the ER with severe reactions to marijuana exposure. The study found that 14 children were admitted to the University of Colorado hospital during 2014, with seven children ending up in the intensive care unit.
The vast majority of children admitted to the hospital for marijuana-related reasons were because of ingesting edible THC products, according to the study.
Wong said he tells parents to keep edibles in a childproof case and store them somewhere apart from food and out of reach of small children.
“I think in Colorado we’re trying to do the best we can to deal with regulations and packaging and warning labels ... to curb these unintended exposures,” he said.