Kids Increasingly Mistaking Pot Edibles for Candy

January 17, 2023 By Eric Swensen, ews3j@virginia.edu Eric Swensen, ews3j@virginia.edu

Calls to UVA Health’s Blue Ridge Poison Center for children unintentionally consuming edible marijuana products nearly tripled from 26 in 2021 to 77 in 2022. 

About 68% of those calls in 2022 – a total of 52 – involved children ages 5 or younger, with most of those kids requiring hospitalization. Calls among this age group more than tripled from 2021, when the poison center received 16 calls for kids 5 or younger. 

UVA Health medical toxicologist Dr. Chris Holstege, the poison center’s medical director, said most of these cases are caused by toddlers mistaking edible marijuana products for candy.

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Portrait of Dr. Chris Holstege

Dr. Chris Holstege, the poison center’s medical director, said children mistaking edibles for candy is one reason behind the growing number of calls. (Photo by Sanjay Suchak, University Communications)


“As an adult, I cannot tell the difference between some of the edible cannabis products now emerging on the market because the products closely mimic available candies such as caramels and gum drops,” he said.  

The overall number of calls to the poison center for accidental consumption of marijuana edibles among children has increased sharply in recent years. There was only one such call in 2018, four in 2019 and 11 in 2020. These calls likely represent only a fraction of the cases occurring, as the poison center is not called every time a child accidentally consumes a marijuana edible.

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These pediatric cases have occurred throughout Virginia, with 10 children requiring advanced care at UVA Health. Children who accidentally consume marijuana edibles can experience markedly rapid heart rates, low blood pressure, vomiting, confusion, hallucinations, profound sedation and seizures.  

“I worry that based on the current yearly trend increases associated with the rapid emergence of stores that sell edible cannabis products, we will continue to encounter increasing numbers of adverse events in Virginia with children who require hospitalizations,” Holstege said.

The Blue Ridge Poison Center hotline is staffed around the clock and can be reached at 800-222-1222.

Media Contact

Eric Swensen

UVA Health System