Data: Legalization of Marijuana Linked to Increased Youth Exposure to Drug

As New Jersey lawmakers discuss the legalization of marijuana, it is important to evaluate the impact on the residents of states that have legalized marijuana.

New data released in Washington State shows that legalization there has led to a large increase in the number of youth marijuana poisonings.

In 2017, the number of incidents reported to the Washington State Poison Center increased by nearly 30 percent to an all-time high of 378. Reporting these incidents is voluntary, and the data likely underrepresents the true total throughout the state.

Almost one-third of the total exposures reported to the poison center last year were for children ages 5 or younger. Exposure within that age group increased by nearly 58 percent from 2016.

Part of the reason for this increase has been the emergence of THC edibles, such as gummies and cookies, being sold since the legalization and commercialization of marijuana. Marijuana edibles were involved in nearly half of the reported exposure that occurred in 2017.

While marijuana possession is still illegal for people younger than 21 in states that have legalized marijuana, it is clear that legalization has made it more likely for children to access the drug. It is crucial that New Jersey leaders take into consideration how marijuana is impacting other states and how it would impact New Jersey residents, young and old alike.   

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