Cannabis and children

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Learn about cannabis, what happens if a child accidentally consumes cannabis and how to prevent unintentional cannabis poisoning.

Key points

  • Cannabis, also known as marijuana, weed and pot, refers to a group of plants that contain chemical substances, including cannabinoids such as THC and CBD.
  • Cannabis can be consumed by smoking or vaping, or by eating cannabis products such as baked goods and candies.
  • If a child consumes cannabis, they may experience mild to severe symptoms including vomiting, agitation, confusion, or in some cases coma or seizures.
  • To prevent unintentional cannabis poisoning, store all cannabis products in a locked box or container separate from regular food and drinks, and always buy your cannabis products from an authorized provincial and territorial seller.

The Ontario Poison Centre has seen an increase in cases of children unintentionally eating edible cannabis products and requiring hospital admission. In many cases these products look almost identical to popular brands of candy and contain many more milligrams of THC than approved by Health Canada.

The effects of cannabis in a child are much more variable than effects seen in adults. Any ingestion of cannabis in a child can cause serious harm. Learn more about cannabis and how to keep your family safe.

If you have non-emergency questions about cannabis and children, please contact the Ontario Poison Centre at 1-800-268-9017 (toll free) or 416-813-5900 (Toronto).

If your child has consumed cannabis, take them to the nearest emergency department or call 911.

What is cannabis?

Cannabis (also known as marijuana, weed and pot) refers to a group of plants that are grown around the world, including Canada. The Cannabis plant contains many chemical substances, including over 100 "cannabinoids".

What is a cannabinoid?

Cannabinoids affect cells in the brain and the body. They can change how those cells behave and communicate with each other.

What are examples of cannabinoids?

  • THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) is a cannabinoid you may hear about the most. It is a "psychoactive" component, meaning that it is responsible for the way your brain and body respond to cannabis, including the "high" or intoxicating effect.
  • CBD (cannabidiol) is also a cannabinoid. While it is also psychoactive, it does not produce a high or intoxication and is often used for medicinal purposes.

What is cannabis used for?


People often use cannabis to experience feelings of relaxation and contentment.


Cannabis has been used for a variety of indications including appetite stimulation in serious illness, pain relief and anti-seizure therapy for children with rare forms of epilepsy.

How is cannabis consumed?

Cannabis can be consumed through smoking or vaping the plant-based product, or the active compounds can be extracted into edible forms and eaten.

Edible cannabis products can include candies, baked goods and oils. They are available both commercially and homemade.

How does cannabis affect a child?

If a child consumes cannabis, the symptoms they experience can vary from mild symptoms to very serious symptoms such as a coma.

Some children have required a breathing tube and have needed to be closely monitored in an intensive care setting.

Symptoms of cannabis consumption in children include:

  • Vomiting
  • Agitation
  • Confusion
  • Slurred speech
  • Unsteadiness on feet
  • Drowsiness/lethargy
  • Muscle weakness
  • Slowed breathing
  • Coma (rare)
  • Seizures (rare)

When edibles are consumed, there may be a 1-2-hour delay before a child experiences any symptoms. However, if your child consumes cannabis, you should take them to the nearest emergency department immediately, even if they do not have any symptoms.

Why is cannabis more dangerous for children than for adults?

There are a few possible reasons why cannabis is more dangerous for children than for adults:

  • Most exposures in children are by ingestion. The way that the body absorbs THC in an ingestion is variable and unpredictable.
  • Since children are smaller, the amount of THC per kilogram of body weight is much larger than the same amount would be in an adult.
  • The drug behaves differently and performs different actions in a child’s body than it does in an adult’s body.

Which cannabis products should I be most concerned about?

All cannabis products that are not stored properly present a danger to children. The following cannabis products are the most harmful if ingested by your child:

  • Cannabis edibles bought outside of the legal supply chain.
  • Homemade cannabis edibles: dose control is very difficult without sophisticated equipment.

What are some differences between legal and illegal cannabis products?

Regulated (legal)

  • Comes from an authorized government seller.
  • Maximum 10 milligrams of THC per package of edible cannabis.
  • Ingredient label is accurate.
  • Has strict packaging and labelling rules to reduce appeal to children.
  • Goes through strict testing and cleanliness checks.

Unregulated (illegal)

  • Comes from other (non-government authorized) sources.
  • Possibly hundreds of milligrams of THC per package of edible cannabis.
  • Ingredient label may not be accurate.
  • Packaging can look like popular brands of candy.
  • May be tainted with harmful chemicals or bacteria.

For more information, please see this infographic from the Ontario Poison Centre.

How can I recognize regulated cannabis?

Cannabis products sold by licensed sellers have an "excise stamp" at the time of the sale. If a packaged cannabis product does not have an excise stamp when you buy it, it is not a legal product. Find your provincial excise stamp here.

Remember that legal edible cannabis products are limited to a maximum of 10 mg THC per package. If you buy an edible cannabis product that is labelled with an amount more than 10 mg THC per package, it means that the product is unregulated and has not been tested.

What can I do to prevent an unintentional cannabis poisoning?

To prevent unintentional cannabis poisoning:

  • Store all cannabis products in a locked box or container, and separate from regular food and drinks. Ensure these products are labeled. Remember: #HighAndLocked!
  • Be extra careful with edible cannabis, which can be mistaken for regular food, drink and candy.
  • Always buy your cannabis products from an authorized provincial and territorial seller.

Important: If a child ingests ANY cannabis product, take them to the nearest emergency department.

Last updated: July 29th 2021