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The West Virginia Senate Health Committee on Thursday passed a bill to add edibles to the list of permitted forms of medical cannabis.

Senate Bill 590 adds edibles to the list of permitted cannabis forms for consumption by patients in the medical cannabis program.

The committee amended the bill to include expressly that the packaging must not be enticing for children — for example, coming in the shape of an animal or flavored like candy.

The amendment came about after Sen. Mike Azinger, R-Wood, said he was against the bill because of research showing children’s exposure to cannabis has increased since the introduction of medical cannabis across the country.

According to an eight-year study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, pediatric exposure to cannabis increased in Massachusetts after medical marijuana’s legalization. The study found that calls to the Regional Center for Poison Control for issues related to all cannabis products in children ages newborn to 19 more than doubled — from 29 calls four years before medical cannabis to 69 calls four years after legalization.

The incidence of single-substance cannabis calls increased from 0.4 per 100,000 before legalization to 1.1 per 100,000 after, a 140% increase. The age group of 15 to 19 years had the highest frequency of poison control-reported cannabis exposures; however, children ages newborn to 4 also had a significant increase in calls related to edible products after legalization.

Similar findings were found in studies on Colorado and Washington’s medical cannabis programs.

The JAMA study concluded that states need to strengthen regulations to prevent unintentional exposure of children to cannabis, and to enhance efforts to prevent teens from using marijuana.

Enacted into law four years ago, no patient in West Virginia has yet to access medical cannabis. Permits for grow facilities and dispensaries were approved last year and patient registration began in February.

The Health Committee passed the bill, with Azinger being the lone opposing vote. It now heads to the House floor. The bill is sponsored by Sen. Mike Woelfel, D-Cabell.

Reach Taylor Stuck at

tstuck@hdmediallc.com

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