New Haven students sickened by THC candy released from hospital as cops investigate, mayor says – New Haven Register

NEW HAVEN — Five middle school students hospitalized Friday after eating a a candy bar containing THC at school have been released from the hospital, Mayor Justin Elicker said.

Justin Harmon, spokesman for the school district, said New Haven police and the state Department of Children and Families are investigating. He said the district does not currently intend to make any changes to its policies or staff training, but that “could certainly change as we learn more.”

The Bishop Woods Architecture & Design Magnet school seventh-graders, between 12 and 13 years old, ate the candy bar at school and began to display lethargy and some vomited, officials said at the time. Packaging for the candy indicated it was purchased with THC as an ingredient; Elicker said one of the students brought the candy bar to school and shared it with the others.

“Last Friday’s incident was very concerning,” Elicker said in a statement Tuesday. “Our children’s safety and health are our highest priority. The police are investigating the incident to determine how the student who brought in and distributed the THC obtained it and to determine what legal action or discipline will be necessary.”

Elicker said that, as cannabis becomes more accessible in the state after it was legalized for adult possession on July 1, 2021, “families and our school system will need to have more conversations about safety and be more vigilant.”

William Carbone, executive director of justice programs and the Tow Youth Justice Institute at the University of New Haven, said he believes more vigilance from adults will be required in the future now that the drug has been legalized for adult possession.

“We used to have a rule with my own kids when they go out trick-or-treating: if something came back in the bag that was not wrapped or looked like it was tampered with, you throw it right out,” he said. “The same kind of approach needs to be taken by kids in school if they are offered something like this.”

Some advocates of marijuana legalization and regulation agree.

“Children’s exposure to cannabis products — particularly edibles — a lot of that, we believe, stems from a lack of education in terms of educating parents on how to best protect their kids from marijuana products they may have around the house,” said DeVaughn Ward, senior legislative counsel for the Marijuana Policy Project.

Ward said he believes that, as marijuana becomes more commonplace in the state, state agencies should run public education campaigns so that incidents such as the one at Bishop Woods cannot happen again. The statute signed by Gov. Ned Lamont allocates a portion of revenue from all marijuana sales to state agencies — including the Department of Public Health and Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. He said some of that funding should support public awareness campaigns.

Ward pointed to other components of the statute he believes can prevent illness in young people from THC, such as the cannabis products being required to be packaged individually with 5 milligrams of THC or less per serving; and that cannabis products being required to not resemble non-cannabis products on the market. However, Ward said he believes these measures most likely would be effective for an adolescent population.

“Once you get to teenagers, that to me is when we talk about locking your cannabis products away,” he said, likening it to a liquor cabinet.

Carbone said the issue also raises questions about criminality.

“The question is what kind of care are the parents going to have to be responsible for?” he said. “What if parents leave it in a place where kids can get easy access to it? What should be the penalties for something like that? We’re just putting our foot in the water on this issue right now in Connecticut, but perhaps we can learn something from other states that have done this.”

Ward said he does not know of any “silver bullet solutions” to the issue. He said potential criminal charges could range from reckless endangerment to a felony charge of risk of injury to a minor.

“It’s important to note no one has died. There haven’t been any instances of a child overdosing on cannabis,” he said. “The severe effects are seizures and lethargy, but no one has died.”

brian.zahn@hearstmediact.com

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