The Washington Poison Center fielded 272 calls concerned with exposure to marijuana in 2015, a single-year record, and is on pace to surpass that number this year, according to its clinical managing director Alexander Garrard.
If that comes as a shock, says Garrard, "that's really just the tip of the iceberg." He believes that a large number of cases are not reported, perhaps because people are unaware of the center's consultation services or are afraid of Child Protective Services and law enforcement.
To mitigate the risk, the WAPC is bolstering its efforts to keep cannabis out of the reach of children with what Garrard calls another "harm reduction, poison prevention and education tool."
Earlier this month, at a Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board meeting, the organization revealed a newly designed Not For Kids warning label, a more benign replacement for the fluorescent Mr. Yuk stickers briefly required on cannabis-infused edibles. The rule was scrapped by the board in March. The logo, created with input from the WSLCB and cannabis industry leaders, features a red hand gesturing "stop" and the phone number of the Poison Center's free, confidential emergency helpline, 1-800-222-1222.
"We encourage people to call," says Garrard, who reveals that the voices on the other end belong to full-time toxicologists, not volunteers; this includes licensed pharmacists, nurses and physicians, all bound by the HIPAA laws that protect the medical records of individuals.
Garrard says the calls they receive run the gamut, from innocent acts of irresponsibility (a child mistakes an edible in the cookie jar for an afterschool snack) to paranoid teenagers (and adults) who have overindulged with "dabs" or "shatter," street lingo for a "very potent" (up to 90 percent THC) hash oil concentration.
He also notes that "it behooves parents to talk to their young kids" about marijuana and why it is, as warned, "not for kids."
The new label, should it survive the rule-making process, will be required on edible marijuana products in the state effective Jan. 17, 2017, but retailers will be allowed 90 days to comply. Local dispensaries seem to see it as a reasonable, if not inevitable, change.
Jack Grippi, a supervisor at the north Spokane dispensary Cinder, says that regulations to keep minors out of stores and away from marijuana products are already stringent, and effectively so. He doesn't envision much fallout from the proposed label requirement.
"I don't see why it wasn't on there from the beginning," he says. ♦