Virginia Lawmakers Propose Ban On Candy-Like Weed Edibles To Prevent Child Exposures

No more weed gummy bears?

A pair of Virginia lawmakers wants to ban candy-like cannabis edibles that could appeal to children. Sen. Emmett Hanger (R-Mount Solon) filed legislation co-sponsored by Sen. Bill Stanley (R-Franklin) last week that would prohibit the sale or manufacture of cannabis products “that depict or are in the shape of a human, animal, vehicle, or fruit.”

As more states have legalized cannabis over the last few years, the number of children who are getting sick from consuming edibles has skyrocketed. Nationwide, incidents among kids under 12 jumped from just 187 in 2016 to more than 3,100 by 2020, according to a recent New York Times report.

Incidents have also increased in the commonwealth, though not as dramatically. In 2021, the Virginia Poison Center received at least 78 calls for adverse reactions to weed edibles, with 43 of those for children between the ages of 0 and 4, per a report by Virginia Public Media. That’s compared to 13 calls in 2019, and 35 calls in 2020.

Several states have passed laws dictating how edibles should be labeled, packaged and presented in a bid to prevent children from mistaking the products for candy. Colorado banned candy-shaped edibles in 2017 and now requires manufacturers to package cannabis-infused products in child-resistant containers with a large warning label that reads “THC” – the acronym for the main mind-altering compound in weed.

Virginia became the first Southern state to legalize pot last year. But while legal possession and home cultivation went into effect in July, recreational sales aren’t set to begin until two years from now, in 2024. (Some lawmakers want to speed up the launch of sales to 2023.) Furthermore, a re-enactment clause inserted into last year’s legalization bill requires the General Assembly to take another vote on allowing retail weed sales this legislative session.

The Senate bill to ban candy-like edibles, SB 591, has been assigned to the Committee on Rehabilitation and Social Services, which Hanger has held a seat on since 2016. Like every Republican in the legislature, Hanger and Stanley voted against legalization in 2021. Back then, both the Senate and House were controlled by Democrats, but Republicans have since taken back the lower chamber with a 55-45 majority.

While a recent study found no deaths tied to cannabis exposures among children in the U.S. between 2017 and 2019, life-threatening reactions – like seizures or difficulty breathing – do occur in a small proportion (1.4%) of cases.

Still, some advocates argue that opponents to cannabis reform have used child exposures to edibles to scare the public and slow legalization efforts. Overall, kids remain far more likely to die or suffer injuries from ingesting lithium batteries than from swallowing pot products. From 1995 to 2010, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recorded 14 child deaths from ingesting “button” batteries.

Stanley and Hanger did not return separate requests for comment from The Outlaw Report.

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