U.S. Poison Control Centers say reports of health risks caused by CBD gummies and other cannabis-based products is on the rise as rules from states and the federal government lag amid growing product proliferation.
As of May 31, the centers say they have managed a total of 1,730 such cases so far in 2021. That’s well beyond the pace of such reports in 2020, when there were a total of 2,226 cases for the entire year.
Federal guidance for CBD has been slow to develop, leaving regulators, CBD makers and consumers faced with inconsistent rules – or no rules at all – in individual states, creating problems for legitimate CBD vendors and endangering public health.
Typical case in Tennessee
Typical of the situation, a Tennessee hospital recently issued a warning to parents as at least three children were treated after ingesting gummies that contained either CBD or THC. All of the patients were under the age of five, according to East Tennessee Children’s Hospital.
Product safety and marketing rules are among issues that a new state commission is to address in Tennessee. That body, established by a new law signed by Gov. Bill Lee in May, is to look into a number of matters related to expansion of the state’s limited CBD program, and will study broader medical marijuana legalization.
Consumers often in dark
CBD products have been cited by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) for such things as containing more (or less) CBD than what is on the label, more THC than advertised, and other chemical ingredients that are not listed at all on packaging. That means consumers have no way of knowing whether a product is contaminated with other chemicals and drugs.
Critics have said while the FDA makes efforts at enforcement – primarily by issuing occasional warning letters to unscrupulous CBD vendors – that has come in the absence of significant research and desperately needed progress on CBD rules.
FDA has said wider research of CBD is needed, and industry experts have lamented the dearth of science based knowledge about the medicinal benefits of cannabis generally, noting the mainstream scientific community in the U.S. is still waiting for clinical trials to demonstrate the efficacy of CBD and other cannabinoids.
East Tennessee Children’s Hospital Chief Medical Officer Joe Childs warned that the gummies that prompted warnings in Tennessee are slowly absorbed, so children may ingest several before being affected. He said the products can cause children to become sleepy and sometimes unresponsive. In the worst cases, patients become so sedated they forget to breathe, Childs said.
Doctors in Tennessee said parents should not be fearful of law enforcement as they seek treatment for children who may have ingested cannabis products, even thoughTHC products are illegal in Tennessee.
Critics have warned that cannabis gummy products are attractive to children because they mimic popular candies in appearance, thereby increasing the risk they will be ingested.