Attorney General Kwame Raoul today warned Illinois residents about the dangers of cannabis edibles and hemp derivatives in packaging designed to look like well-known snack foods and candy. As Halloween approaches, Raoul urges parents and guardians to be aware that these unregulated look-alike products are being sold online and can pose a serious threat to children if consumed.
Raoul warned consumers that look-alike cannabis products may contain high concentrations of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive compound found in cannabis, and if consumed by children, can lead to an accidental overdose. According to the Department of Homeland Security, the most common overdose incidents among children involve the ingestion of edible cannabis foods, and such overdoses are on the rise. During the first half of 2021 alone, the American Association of Poison Control Centers reports poison control hotlines have received an estimated 2,622 calls for help related to young children ingesting cannabis products.
“Accidental cannabis overdoses by children are increasing nationwide, and these look-alike products will only exacerbate the danger by appealing to children and youth,” Raoul said. “I urge all residents to be on the lookout for and avoid look-alike products, which are unregulated, unsafe and illegal. In particular, I urge parents and guardians to be aware of the dangers these products pose to children and young adults.”
Look-alike products are illegal. In states that have legalized the sale of marijuana, edible cannabis products are subject to strict safety controls. For example, a single adult serving size of an edible cannabis product in Illinois may contain up to 10 milligrams of THC, and a package of edible products may contain no more than 100 milligrams of THC. However, a single bag of look-alike Cheetos contains 600 milligrams of THC. If a child were to eat the entire bag, they would be consuming 60 times the maximum legal adult serving.
Raoul offered the following tips to help consumers protect children from the dangers of look-alike cannabis products:
- Adults should take strong precautions to ensure that children do not have access to any products containing cannabis.
- Parents and guardians should speak with their children, including young adults, and provide age-appropriate guidance about the dangers look-alike products pose.
- Cannabis products should only be purchased from state licensed businesses, where the consumer can verify the source and origin of the active ingredient and confirm that the product has passed state required testing protocols.
- Products advertising cannabis should not be purchased online through direct shipment platforms.
Symptoms of a THC overdose include respiratory distress, loss of coordination, lethargy, and loss of consciousness. If you suspect your child has eaten a food containing high amounts of THC, call the Illinois Poison Control Hotline at 1-800-222-1222.