California Voice: Cannabis Industry Puts Children at Risk with Dangerous Marketing Practices


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California Voice: Cannabis Industry Is Poisoning Our Kids Just Like Tobacco Has

The legalization and decriminalization of cannabis in California in 2016 brought about unforeseen consequences for our children. The cannabis industry’s marketing practices, which eerily resemble those of tobacco companies, are posing a direct threat to the safety and well-being of kids. It’s time to address this issue head-on and prioritize our children’s health over industry profits.

Since the passage of Proposition 64, numerous incidents have occurred where children have fallen ill after accidentally consuming cannabis-infused products. Shockingly, one out of every ten children who consume cannabis ends up in the intensive care unit. Additionally, a staggering 87% of children under the age of 5 who are hospitalized due to cannabis toxicity have consumed the drug in the form of candy.

In San Diego, where I practice as a pediatrician, the number of children hospitalized for cannabis toxicity has quadrupled since the recreational legalization of cannabis products. This alarming trend raises an important question: Why do cannabis products designed to potentially harm children have to resemble candy?

Despite the clear intentions stated in Proposition 64, which prohibit the design of marijuana products that could appeal to children or be easily confused with non-cannabis candies or foods, the cannabis industry has failed to conform. Walk into any cannabis retailer, and you’ll find a wide array of highly psychoactive candies, snacks, and sodas that mimic popular children’s treats. Cannabis-loaded Cheese Nachos, Uncle Snoop’s Onion Rings, MacFlurrys, and Fanta Orange look-alikes are just a few examples of products that have been mass marketed into California homes.

This type of marketing practice, which associates products children perceive as safe with ones that are addictive and harmful, is both dangerous and unacceptable. It’s astonishing that Californians voted to ban similar practices for tobacco products, yet lawmakers seem to disregard the equally grave threat posed by cannabis.

The cannabis industry must be held accountable for its targeting of children. By exposing young consumers to cannabis and normalizing its use within a child’s physical and social environment, the industry ensures lifelong customers.

In the aftermath of Proposition 64, neither the cannabis industry nor the state has taken sufficient steps to prioritize child safety. However, we now have an opportunity to rectify this situation through Assembly Bill 1207, introduced by Jacqui Irwin, D-Thousand Oaks. This bill aims to honor the promise and intent of Proposition 64 by implementing common-sense measures to create a safer, legal cannabis market. These measures include the removal of packaging and advertising that is attractive to children, as well as the prohibition of flavored inhaled cannabis products.

The passage of AB 1207 would signify a crucial initial step toward a world where recreational cannabis is legal, and children are kept safe. The bill has already passed the California Assembly and currently awaits consideration in the Senate.

As a pediatrician, I implore the Senate and Governor Gavin Newsom to prioritize the health of our children over the profits of the cannabis industry. Let’s support AB 1207 without diluting its effectiveness.

Dr. Natalie Laub is a pediatrician and the director of Clinical Research for the Chadwick Center for Children and Families at Rady Children’s Hospital San Diego. She also serves as an assistant clinical professor at UC San Diego.

Sources:

  1. American Academy of Pediatrics Study on Pediatric Cannabis Exposures
  2. California Marijuana Impact Report 2022
  3. Assembly Bill 1207
  4. AB 1207 Cannabis Candy Child Safety Act

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