New data reveals decline in cannabis-related pediatric ER visits following new Va. law

Whether from cannabis ingestion, intoxication or abuse, over the last few years, Virginia has seen an increase in young people visiting emergency rooms after being exposed to THC and hemp-based products.

But new data from the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association shows those numbers declined right after a law to regulate these products went into effect.

Julian Walker, vice president of communications with Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association, said emergency rooms have seen a 21.5% decrease in cannabis-related pediatric emergency visits since a law regulating THC products went into effect in July of last year. The law requires CBD and THC products to have clear labels that disclose ingredients and places limits on the chemical concentration.

“We also saw a reduction between 2022 and 2023, and a reduction between the first half of 2023 and the second half of 2023,” Walker said. “So big picture, that’s what the numbers show. That after several years of a trend of increasing pediatric emergency department visits for cannabis exposure, after this law took effect on July 1, 2023; in the six months after that, we saw the number of visits that we had been recording in hospital emergency departments, we saw them decline.”

Recently, the Virginia Department of Health also announced the roll out of a surveillance system for medical providers to track cases where a person under the age of 18 was seen for cannabis related medical issues.

“Since November 2022, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) has received some reports of adverse events in children who consumed products containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or cannabidiol (CBD),” wrote State Health Commissioner Karen Shelton in a memo. “Reported symptoms for these adverse events have included vomiting, hallucinations, low blood pressure, low blood sugar, altered mental status and anxiety; some hospitalizations have occurred.”

Walker added that while they can’t conclude there’s a direct correlation between the legislation and this reported decrease, their data definitely shows an emerging trend.

“The shift in the pattern in the data coincides with the implementation and effective date of this new state law,” Walker said. “To definitively say ‘this is causing this’ or ‘this is attributable to this,’ we would need to do deeper data analysis.”

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Cheyenne Corin

Cheyenne Corin joined the WTOP News team in February 2023. Prior to this role she was a Montgomery County, Maryland, bureau reporter at WDVM/DC News Now.

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