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Arkansas children becoming more exposed to cannabis

According to Arkansas Poison Control, it's becoming more common for children to get ahold of edible cannabis.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — As more states legalize marijuana, access to edible cannabis is becoming easier, which means there's a higher risk of children getting their hands on it.

In Arkansas, Russellville police are currently investigating a case where a child brought edibles to school and shared them with friends.

Doctors at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) said it's becoming more common for children to get ahold of cannabis that isn't meant for them. 

Dr. Ari Filip with Arkansas Poison Control said they've seen a more than 500% increase in pediatric edible exposures over the past five years and the data in Arkansas is similar to what is seen on a national level.

"It's not surprising given how accessible it is," Filip said. "It's just shocking. The magnitude of this poisoning."

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, between 2017 and 2021, there were more than 7,000 cases of young kids ingesting edibles with more than 97% of incidents happening in the home.

"We're seeing that maybe about a quarter of the calls that we get," Filip said. "Close to a quarter of the calls, Small children wound up being admitted to the hospital, and in some cases, even in ICU."

That's why Filip recommended a simple solution— storing cannabis where kids can't get to it and being selective with the location.

"Don't think that because it's in your special hiding place that it's that it's safe," Filip said.

Arkansas law helps take it a step further, stating that packaging for edible cannabis cannot "be attractive to minors."

Russellville Police Chief David Ewing said they're currently investigating a case of elementary students eating edibles out of a container that looks like a well-known candy brand.

"I believe at this age and the fact that we have at this time it looks like they believed it was candy," Ewing said. "He shared it with two other students... they became ill and they were evaluated medically."

Ewing said he hopes anyone with cannabis will pay closer attention and take appropriate safety measures. 

"It can cause harmful effects," Ewing said. "We all are here for the safety of the children to make sure that they're fine."

Filip said some of the side effects of kids eating edibles can include confusion, drowsiness and seizures in more extreme cases.

He said if it does happen, to call the poison control hotline at 1-800-222-1222.

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