Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Should we criminalize every dangerous item that children might accidentally ingest?

The question in the title of this post came to mind when I saw this post by Bill Otis at the Everyone I Don't Like Should Be In Prison Blog Crime & Consequences Blog.  

Bill highlights a new report telling us that between 2005 and 2011 there were "985 calls to U.S. poison centers for unintentional marijuana exposure in children ages 9 and younger" due to accidental injestion.  The study also reports that the rate of calls "in states that had passed legislation legalizing marijuana use for recreational or medicinal purposes before 2005 more than tripled over this period."  (Since it wasn't until 2012 that any state legalized marijuana for recreaational purposes, I'm not entirely sure what this last part means.  But I'll put that to the side for now.)    

From this data, Bill appears to surmise that "what pot legalizers really want" (this line is the title of his post) is to hurt our children because, of course, we "may infer that a person intends the natural and probable consequences of his acts." 

Here's the thing.  I don't know if Bill knows this but marijuana is not the only dangerous item small children ingest.  In fact, I used the google machine and found this 2012 annual report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers National Poison Data System (PDF).  If Bill thinks 985 calls over 6 years is a moral outrage, he should prepare to turn his outrage meter to 11.

In 2012 alone, there were 159,970 calls involving "cosmetics/personal care products," 111,148 for "cleaning substances," 49,086 for "vitamins," and 21,721 for "arts/crafts/office supplies."  And this is just for kids aged 5 and younger.  (The data is at Table 17C.)  (These are also just a handful of examples from the top 25 substances.)

I always suspected that the cosmetics industry's true goal was to poison our children!  And same with the vitamin makers!  And the arts and crafts suppliers!  

I'm looking forward to seeing Bill's call for the prohibition of lipstick and cleaning goods.  ...

Look, I don't mean to make light of the danger edible marijuana candies can pose to kids (I've posted about it before myself.)  I certainly believe that legalization states should enact strict labeling, packaging and dosage regulations when it comes to marijuana edibles.  No sane person would want a 9 year old child to accidentally eat a marijuana cookie.

But I don't think the fact that something can harm a child if accidentally swallowed means we should criminalize it.  Nor does the fact that 985 kids have ingested marijuana over 6 years mean that "what legalizers really want" is to hurt our children.  Honestly, it's a little sad that some prohibitionists apparently believe otherwise.

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More like this please. (Commentary or insight instead of mere links to Denver Post articles...)

Posted by: GatewayDrug | May 8, 2014 11:16:19 AM

Thanks for your comment. We try to mix coverage of news, court cases and commentary. Sometimes this does mean simply linking to relevant news stories. We understand that some readers may have already seen these stories elsewhere but we think these links can be of value to some readers who may follow this blog in their RSS feeds to learn of recent news related to marijuana law and policy.

Posted by: Alex Kreit | May 8, 2014 2:59:40 PM

Also, GatewayDrug, you can and should feel free to add some commentary in the comments, which in turn will prompt the editors to be more involved in providing commentary.

Posted by: Doug B. | May 9, 2014 9:25:47 AM

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