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Oklahoma State Legislature and ODMHSAS Focus on Protecting Children Amidst Medical Marijuana Concerns

Friday, November 03, 2023

House of Representatives member Cynthia Roe, chair of the public health committee, has requested an Interim Study (IS23-029) presentation to analyze cannabis ingestion by children and youth. The Committee for Alcohol, Tobacco, and Controlled Substances invites the media to attend this Interim Study at 9:00 a.m. on Monday, November 6, at the Oklahoma State Capitol in Room 5S2. This presentation will exclusively address the pressing issue of Unintentional Ingestions of Medical Marijuana Edibles and Their Impact on Children.  

In 2018, when marijuana was decriminalized in Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Poison Center received 13 calls regarding children aged 0-5 years exposed to marijuana. This number has increased sharply over the last four and ½ years. There were 269 exposures reported to the Oklahoma Poison Center in 2022. This represents over a 2000% increase in calls related to marijuana exposure in this young population.   

In 2023, we are well on track to meet and possibly exceed this number, as 196 exposures have been reported in the first nine months of 2023. In 2022, 65% of the marijuana-related calls were due to marijuana edibles in this patient population. From January 1, 2022, through September 30, 2023, the Oklahoma Poison Center helped in the management of 16 children who experienced seizures. Eight were intubated and placed on ventilators and an additional 29 children required supplemental oxygen therapy. Additionally, 152 children were admitted to the hospital for observation, while another 31 children were admitted to a critical care unit. Of note, this data only represents calls made to the poison center and does not likely include all exposures in the state of Oklahoma.    

The Oklahoma State Department of Health’s (OSDH) data on non-fatal cannabis overdose-related emergency department discharges from 2021 reported children aged one to four years had the highest rate among all age groups, with a rate of 33.1 children per 100,000. OSDH data from 2017 to 2021 on non-fatal cannabis overdose-related inpatient hospital discharges also showed children aged one to four years had the highest rate of inpatient hospitalizations, with a rate of 6.5 children per 100,000.    

The Interim Study will include: 

  1. Data illustrating the number of incidents of unintentional marijuana ingestion by children.
  2. The lack of a clear definition for 'child-resistant packaging' in SQ 788 statute. 
  3. The critical need for expanded statewide prevention efforts concerning marijuana. 

Experts, including poison control specialists and pediatric physicians with firsthand experience treating children affected by unintentional marijuana ingestion, will share their perspectives. Additionally, representatives from the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority (OMMA) will discuss packaging statutes, while ODMHSAS and Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth (OCCY) will highlight existing prevention efforts and potential allocations of the Legislature's Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority Fund prevention initiatives. Other state agencies such as the Oklahoma Department of Human Services and Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and individuals from the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center will provide data and be present at the study.  

Both state officials and experts agree that strengthening 'child-resistant' packaging statutes and providing comprehensive statewide prevention and education programs will help curb unintentional marijuana ingestion by young children. 

ODMHSAS is committed to raising awareness on this issue and collaborating with other state agencies and lawmakers to enact change. ODMHSAS has also engaged various stakeholders, including a parents' focus group, physicians from the Oklahoma State Medical Association (OSMA), and workgroup members, to enhance ongoing surveys relating to medical marijuana. These discussions led to significant improvements in the survey with a keen focus on safeguarding children.

Bonnie Campo

Sr. Director of Public Relations

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