Health Canada advisory after children hospitalized with cannabis poisoning (Gallery)

Health Canada has issued an advisory about illegal counterfeit cannabis edibles that look a lot like candy.

The agency is reminding Canadians children can suffer serious harm if they ingest cannabis, especially if the products are illegal and unregulated.

It reported an increase in emergency department visits and calls to poison centres after children mistook the products for candy or snacks.

“Examples of copycat illegal edible cannabis can include cereal and snack foods such as chips, cheese puffs, cookies, chocolate bars, and a variety of popular candies,” stated the advisory. “These products can contain very high amounts of THC, which increases the risk of experiencing adverse effects or poisoning.”

Signs a child has ingested cannabis include chest pain, rapid heartbeat, nausea, vomiting, psychotic episode, respiratory depression, severe anxiety, panic attack, agitation, confusion, slurred speech, unsteadiness, lethargy, muscle weakness and loss of consciousness.

“Poisonings can be life-threatening, sometimes resulting in coma, being on a ventilator, or in rare cases, death,” said Health Canada. “While there have been no fatal cases reported in Canada to date, Health Canada is aware of international cases of pediatric cannabis poisoning leading to death.”

It recommends calling 911 or your regional poison centre if you suspect someone is experiencing cannabis poisoning. The agency also suggests keeping cannabis products in a locked drawer or box and separate from regular food and drink.

(Photo courtesy of Health Canada)

(Photo of legal cannabis packaging courtesy of Health Canada)

“To protect the health and safety of Canadians, the [Cannabis Act and its Regulations] imposes a number of controls on the production of cannabis,” warned the agency. “These controls are designed to ensure that legally produced cannabis meets strict quality control standards. Illegal cannabis products do not have these strict control standards.”

Legal products are in plain child-proof packaging and include labelling with a yellow health warning message and information about much THC and CBD it contains. The legal limit is 10 milligrams of THC. It will have an excise stamp added at the point of sale.

Illegal products may be inside flashy, brightly-coloured packages that mimic name brands.

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