Bill to address exploding number of child cannabis poisonings overwhelmingly passes Assembly floor

The Cannabis Candy Child Safety Act (AB 1207) would prohibit cannabis products clearly mimicking candy, soda, and snacks attractive to kids.

Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin’s landmark bill addressing the recent explosion of poisonings and hospitalizations of young children due to accidental ingestion of cannabis products passed the State Assembly floor by a vote of 61 Yea to 0 Nay.

The Cannabis Candy Child Safety Act would implement key measures to protect children and youth, more clearly define and prohibit products, packaging and marketing that is attractive to children or teens and prohibit flavored inhaled cannabis products known to hook kids, just as flavored Juul e-cigarettes did. AB 1207 passed the Assembly Business and Professions Committee on April 18 and the Assembly Committee on Appropriations Committee on May 18. The bill now moves to the State Senate.

“I am pleased to see bipartisan support for this essential child protection measure as this bill advances to the State Senate,” said Irwin.

The explosion of California children ending up in hospital emergency rooms because they mistakenly ate cannabis gummies or edibles mimicking some of their favorite candy or snacks demands legislative action,” said Dr. Lynn Silver, pediatrician and Director of Getting it Right from the Start, at the Public Health Institute. “Today, the California Assembly brought us one critical step closer to creating a safer cannabis market that stops putting kids’ health last. Now we urge the Senate to do the same.”

Systemic California regulatory failures, and widespread cannabis commercialization has resulted in the proliferation of hundreds of legal cannabis products with characteristics of candies and foods known to attract children and youth, as well as fruity high potency cannabis vapes mimicking now banned fruit-flavored Juuls well known to attract teen initiation. This has led to:

Annual cannabis exposures reported to California Poison Control increased from less than 200 in 2010 to more than 1600 by 2020; 50 percent involved children, half below age 12. There were only 16 total reported gummy exposures between 2010 and 2015 vs. 409 in 2020 alone.

Cannabis-related emergency department visits in California increased by 75 percent between 2016 and 2020, mainly involving the consumption of plant material, followed by edibles, concentrates and vaping products, demonstrating that the problem extends beyond just edibles.

At Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego, children under age 10 testing positive for THC quadrupled since 2016, mostly from edibles, of which three quarters were from candies or gummies. Half led to hospitalization and one in ten to intensive care, costing more than $15 million dollars just at one hospital.

AB 1207 has been gaining momentum over the last week with a virtual press event  in support of the legislation and a subsequent Los Angeles Times editorial advocating on its behalf the following day. The bill is now supported by dozens of organizations representing pediatricians, parents, emergency physicians, public health, youth, and substance use prevention professionals, including: The California American Academy of Pediatrics, California, California Society of Addiction Medicine, the American College of Emergency Physicians – California Chapter, California PTA, The County of Santa Clara, Public Health Institute, Public Health Advocates and Youth Forward.