Pubdate: Thu, 25 Jul 2013
Source: Telegraph, The (Nashua, NH)
Copyright: 2013 Telegraph Publishing Company
Author: Danielle Curtis

Cannabis Care


Editor's note: New Hampshire is the 19th state to allow some form of 
medical marijuana. The Telegraph's six-day series, Cannabis Care, 
examines New Hampshire's therapeutic marijuana legislation and how 
the law will work, including who can get the drug, how much it will 
cost, and what needs to happen before the first batch of marijuana is 
legally distributed in the state.

NASHUA - There's cookies, brownies, cakes, cupcakes, fudge, 
lollipops, even lemonade - nearly any sweet treat you could think of.

But the treats contain a lot more than sugar; they're made with marijuana.

And while they've been consumed recreationally for years, the same 
products are now popping up for patients in states where medical 
marijuana is legal, causing what some health officials say is a whole 
new kind of danger for children.

"There's nothing about a Rice Krispie treat that says, 'This is 
medication, you shouldn't touch it,' " said Granite State poison 
control educator Laurie Warnock.

And with medical marijuana now legal in the Granite State, some are 
worried that kids and teens could face negative, if unintended, consequences.

The state's legislation is silent on the type of marijuana products 
that dispensaries can sell.

Any regulations related to the packaging of such products, or the 
products themselves, will be outlined in rules developed by the 
Department of Health and Human Services, which have not yet been written.

But even if the state's dispensaries aren't handing out Pot Tarts, 
medical marijuana patients often make edible goods with the drug 
themselves. Smoking marijuana can often make eligible conditions 
worse, and most doctors advise against it for medical marijuana patients.

While ingesting the drug may be better for the patients, it can make 
things for dangerous for kids, Warnock said.

"These products don't look like medication, and they're not taken 
like medication," she said. "They can be easily confused by children."

And children can experience more dramatic side effects than adults if 
they ingest the drug, from dilated pupils and tachycardia, to tremors 
and even comas.

A report released in May by researchers in Colorado compared the 
number of marijuana ingestions by young children who were brought to 
the emergency room before and after October 2009, when drug 
enforcement laws regarding medical marijuana were relaxed in that state.

The study found no record of children brought into the ER in a large 
Colorado children's hospital for marijuana-related poisonings between 
January 2005 and Sept. 30, 2009. Between Oct. 1, 2009, and Dec. 31, 
2011, however, 14 cases were reported, eight of which involved 
medical marijuana.

Such statistics prompted Massachusetts to require child-proof 
packaging for medical marijuana products, and some lawmakers in that 
state also want to ban marijuana products that mimic candy and other 
treats often marketed to children.

No matter what type of products are sold in the Granite State, and 
what kind of packing they come in, Warnock said it will be extremely 
important for patients, particularly those with children, to treat 
the marijuana like any other medication, keeping it stored out of 
reach of children and not ingesting it casually in front of their children.

"Parents need to model good behavior," she said. "Don't call 
medications candy. Keep as little on hand as possible, and don't take 
it in their presence if you're going to be sending a mixed message 
about what it is you're doing."

It's this mixed message that some drug prevention advocates in the 
state say could impact all young people, not only those who live in 
the same house as a medical marijuana patient.

"We need to look at this as a public health issue," said Celeste 
Clarke, executive director of the Raymond Youth Coalition, who 
brought a speaker on medical marijuana to a state health conference 
earlier this summer. "We're not saying anyone is a bad person for 
using medical marijuana ... We're just very concerned about the 
message it sends."

Local prevention advocate Betsey Houde, executive director of 
Nashua-based Beyond Influence, agreed.

Many youth already view marijuana as a low-risk substance, she said. 
Seeing in the news that it is safe, and that people use it as 
medication, will only strengthen that perception.

"There are massively dangerous consequences for kids who don't think 
it's a big deal," Houde said. "My fear is that as soon as people 
think that marijuana is safe, there will be an increase in use and 
more issues with young people's developing brains."

A state Youth Risk Behavior Survey from 2011, the most recent data 
provided on the state Department of Eduction website, shows that 
marijuana is already used more frequently by Granite State teens than 

According to the survey, conducted in schools across the state, 19.8 
percent of teens had smoked a cigarette at least once during the 30 
days leading up to the survey. Thirty-eight percent of youth had 
consumed alcohol in the previous 30 days, and 28 percent had used marijuana.

Houde said these numbers have been on the rise for a few years, and 
that she's worried legalized therapeutic marijuana could make the 
numbers jump higher a trend the state has also been seeing with 
prescription drug abuse.

"Kids are sharing medicines, and they think that because a doctor 
prescribes it, it can't harm them," she said. "I think that while 
people in extreme pain or facing a terminal illness should have the 
opportunity to be comfortable, personally I don't know that 
legalizing therapeutic cannabis is the best method for kids."

But not everyone in the state is worried the legalization of medical 
marijuana will make those numbers worse.

In fact, Kirk McNeil, executive director of medical marijuana 
advocacy group, said some states with legal medical 
marijuana have actually seen a reduction in teen use.

"Maine is a really good example of this," he said. "The prices of 
medicinal marijuana are actually far higher in Maine ... Having a 
higher quality, but more expensive product out there tends to 
decrease youth use, not increase it. That's just market economics."

McNeil said he's heard the concerns about sending a bad message to 
teens, but believes that view is overly simplistic.

Still, McNeil said it is important that patients treat their medical 
marijuana as a medication and not use it casually in front of young 
people. Talking openly about the practice as a family is also 
important, he said.

Still, if a teenager did gain access to a parent or grandparent's 
medical marijuana, he said, it would still be less dangerous than 
many of the narcotics and other medications the patients would be 
using otherwise.

"The lethal dose of marijuana has never been determined, because you 
can't ingest it in a 24-hour period," McNeil said. "If you're going 
to get into drugs, I'd rather see you get into marijuana that 
oxycontin, morphine or codeine, maybe even Robitussin.

"It shouldn't be taken lightly, and it's something you have to 
address, but not from a place of fear."
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