As legal marijuana proliferates across the country, one consequence appears to be unavoidable: More young children will accidentally be exposed to pot. It's just entropy, a law of nature: If a child can get its hands on something, he or she will eventually.
The journal Clinical Pediatrics recently published a comprehensive study of marijuana exposures of children under the age of 6. Compiling 13 years of data (2000 through 2013) from the National Poison Data System, the researchers found that while these incidents are rare, they are growing quickly. On average, there are 5.90 marijuana exposures per million kids in the age group. But here's the kicker: That rate increased 147.5 percent from 2006 to 2013. Most of that is attributable to states that legalized medical marijuana before 2000. Those areas saw a 609.6 percent percent increase in marijuana exposures; a rate that has accelerated since 2009, the study notes. In a state where medicinal marijuana was legalized before 2000, a child is 2.8 times more likely to be exposed.
Overall, marijuana exposure rates increased for kids under age 6 from 2000 to 2013.
But the states that legalized medicinal marijuana before 2000—California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and Maine—have seen a much higher increase.
Those rate increases are eye-popping, but consider how infrequent marijuana exposures are compared to household bleach exposures. According to a 2010 report in the journal Pediatrics, the rate of bleach poisonings for kids under the age 5 is around 1.75 per 10,000 (extrapolated out, that's 175 per million). Bleach is in most households. Marijuana isn't. But if marijuana continues to proliferate legally into parents' homes, the exposure rates may keep rising.