Akron doctor sees increase in teens using marijuana products

AKRON Ohio - Dr. Laura Markley says in her practice as a child psychiatrist and pediatrician at Akron Children's Hospital she has seen a dramatic increase in the number of kids, as young as middle school age, who have been seen at the hospital with alarming symptoms related to marijuana products.

"They are conscious, but they are not present, they are speaking in a way that doesn't make sense to their parents or anyone else around them, acting completely different than they usually would," Markley said.

Whereas she said it is typical to see a couple of cases in a year, she has seen five or six since December.

Ohio's medical marijuana industry is still in it's infancy with products like edibles, patches and cremes still not on dispensary shelves. Just this month, the Ohio Highway Patrol arrested a Denver man in Summit County after he was stopped with $37,000 worth of marijuana products, including edibles, in his car. A Cleveland mother was arrested after her son was accused of taking marijuana infused gummy bears to school.

Markley said children's brains are not fully developed. While medical marijuana is being dispensed to people with qualifying medical conditions, it is not safe to leave where young people can have access to them, she said.

She said she has seen patients who have used edibles, as well as youngsters who are vaporizing a waxy concentrate of the THC, which is found in marijuana. She has also seen patients who have used marijuana oils that can be smoked in a vape pen.

"They have distilled it into a liquid that teens can put into what looks like a regular vape pen, and can literally sit next to their parents inhaling 30 percent THC and their parents are none the wiser," Markley said.

For police and caregivers, the uptick in the number of kids who need medical care because they have had access to marijuana products only underscores the need for those who are legally buying them to be responsible.

"If you leave the prescriptions on the end table and the kid has access to it, you are going to be held for that. You know, if the kid gets a hold of your edibles or your medical marijuana, and ingests that stuff, ends up in the hospital, parents are going to be held accountable for that," said Akron Police Lt. Rick Edwards

"Obviously, my biggest fear is that it will become more widespread and we will see more of these cases, which are very, very sad to deal with," Markley said.

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