Pediatricians, Parents and Politicians: Protecting our Children

Consensus building is challenging for any organization. However, the things it seems we can all agree upon is that we love our children and grandchildren and we want the very best for them. Keeping our children out of harms way is innate, intrinsic and instinctual to our human nature. Perhaps that’s why pediatricians, parents, politicians and cannabis proponents, like myself, can all agree that as cannabis legalization efforts gain momentum, every effort should be made to package marijuana products in child-resistant packaging to keep them away from curious little hands.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently released its 2015 updated recommendations on marijuana and its impacts on children. The title of this new policy statement is “The Impact of Marijuana Policies on Youth: Clinical, Research, and Legal Update.” The last time a policy on marijuana was issued by AAP was in 2004. To compare the 11-year-old policy statement with the newly released 2015 statement is to hail the awakening of American doctors that are beginning to acknowledge that there may be medicinal benefits to cannabis. While the AAP is clearly being measured, evenhanded and cautious, it is a tectonic shift in its approach to cannabis.

Although the AAP clearly states it does not officially support the legalization of marijuana, in item 7 of its 10 point recommendation, the AAP advocates and acknowledges that in states like Colorado where medical and recreational marijuana is sold, all forms of marijuana should be “distributed in childproof packaging to prevent accidental ingestion.” Also of special note to medical cannabis proponents is item 5 under recommendations that states, “The AAP strongly supports research and development of pharmaceutical cannabinoids.”

Although the carefully crafted new 10-point statement does not fully endorse cannabis as a medical treatment therapy, the AAP does acknowledge the potential heath benefits for children with “life-limiting or severely debilitating conditions” and it further recommends that marijuana be changed from a “schedule I to a schedule II drug to facilitate research.” This is truly a huge step for such a conservative organization entrusted with guiding medical care for our children. Perhaps the heartwarming stories of children with severe pediatric epilepsy, like Charlotte Figi and the successful treatment of her condition with the cannabinoid CBD, are finally making their way into public policy recommendations.

Politicians appear to be in agreement that children’s safety should take priority as well. In “Pathways Report: Policy Options for Regulating Marijuana in California,” a newly released 93-page report from The Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Policy, the first item reads as follows:

“Promote the public interest by ensuring that all legal and regulatory decisions around legalization are made with a focus on protecting California’s youth and promoting public health and safety.”

This report appears to be setting the regulatory stage for recreational marijuana, if approved by California voters in the 2016 elections. Kudos to the commission for making the very first item in this lengthy report focus on protecting California’s youth.

I wholeheartedly agree, as a mother and a grandmother that protecting children should be a top priority. My mantra is “Keep marijuana out of children’s hands!” When I was asked to speak on best practices in the cannabis industry at the 2015 Marijuana Investor Summit in Denver, the primary focus of my talk was educating edibles manufacturers about child safe options for packaging cannabis-infused edibles.

Building a consensus around common goals makes us uniquely human. If marijuana legalization proponents, politicians, pediatricians and parents can all agree that marijuana edibles should be packaged in child-resistant containers to prevent accidental ingestion by children, we have taken a giant leap forward in the discussion of national legalization for responsible adult consumption.

But perhaps a bit of perspective: President Barack Obama smoked marijuana as a youth growing up in Hawaii, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs freely admitted to being a marijuana enthusiast in his college days; our beloved sage of the Cosmos Carl Sagan was an avid cannabis consumer and advocate; and they were all highly productive, critical thinkers. Concerned parents, pediatricians and politicians may be well served in knowing that if a child eats a handful of baby aspirin, it could be fatal; if a child accidentally devours a marijuana chocolate bar, it is not. Just sayin’.

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