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'This isn't OK.' As concern grows over kids ingesting marijuana, officials search for solutions

Posted at 2:30 PM, Jun 04, 2024

(WXYZ) — A massive effort is underway to protect our kids in response to more and more cases of marijuana consumption and serious health risks.

Across Southeast Michigan, we're hearing from voices within our community, looking to bring solutions.

Stakeholders across metro Detroit are working with a sense of urgency to keep kids out of the hospital due to marijuana consumption.

“These types of products are still finding their way into the average American household and kids are getting their hands on it," Brandon Reinkensmeyer, a parent of two, said.

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Reinkensmeyer said he knows first-hand about the dangers of kids consuming marijuana products. When his daughter was eight years old, she unknowingly ate gummies in packaging that closely-resembled kids candy at a youth baseball game.

“She had no clue what was going on and horrible dreams," Reinkensmeyer said.

Look closely, you'll see they're actually called "Stoner Patch Dummies."

VIDEO: Detroit public schools says student marijuana use becoming a serious problem:

Detroit public schools says student marijuana use becoming a serious problem

“Do we need lawmakers to take more action to protect kids?” I asked Reinkensmeyer.

“At some point you have to sit down and say, 'this isn’t OK, and me and my constituents are doing to sit down and take a hard look at this,'" he said.

Reinkensmeyer said his daughter was treated and released from the hospital, but the number of cases has continued to grow at an alarming rate.

Dr. Nikolai Vitti, the superintendent of Detroit Public Schools Community District, is publicly sounding the alarm after reporting roughly 750 incidents of kids taking marijuana gummies, other edibles or using vape pens in the past year alone.

VIDEO: Hear from Dr. Vitti on the problem below:

FULL INTERVIEW: Nikolai Vitti on student marijuana use

“Are you afraid one of these cases could turn fatal?" I asked Dr. Kelly Levasseur of Children's Hospital of Michigan.

"Yes. Yes I am," she said.

I sat down with Levasseur to ask more about stats that show from 2020-2022, there were 801 cases of cannabis toxicity among kids 5 years old and younger, according to the Michigan Poison and Drug Information Center.

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“There are kids who come in, and they’re not breathing enough. Just taking a few breaths and we’ve had to start to breathe for them," Levasseur said.

She said the number of young patients coming to the ER since the legalization of marijuana has increased rapidly. Often, kids' ages range from 16 months to 6 years old. Symptoms include sleepiness, confusion, respiratory problems and hunger.

“Kids just see candy on the counter and start eating the candy," Levasseur said. “Luckily, their parents realized their child was in this much distress and brought them in.”

“It’s about increasing awareness when it comes to edible marijuana," Marium Ismail, who works for LAHC, a leading bilingual campaign to raise awareness for kids and parents across Wayne County.

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In many school districts, including in Dearborn, she tells me there's a mix of students who confuse edibles with candy, along with others knowingly turning to vaping and other products without regard for the harm they cause.

“In terms of delivering the message how do you achieve that?" I asked.

“Our prevention specialists are going directly in the classroom, and they are providing the youth with necessary skills and tools they can utilize when it comes to them being placed in these challenging situations," Ismail said.

School leaders and parents are asking for funding to install detectors in school bathrooms and to further educate our youth, plus more solutions.

“How do you control someone’s household if the parents have it there and the kids don’t know the difference?" State Rep. Tyrone Carter said.

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I asked him how soon talks could lead to tougher laws put in place, and what they could look like.

“We’ve got to pull back and say this is harming unintended young people that don’t know the difference. I don’t know, Simon. It’s time for a broader conversation," he said.

For Reinkensmeyer, it comes down to protecting lives. He gives the green light to stronger penalties designed to keep kids in our community safe.

“If you know the source or where it came from, I do think the penalties should be stiff," he said.

The LAHC holds regular community events outside of schools, to further raise awareness. You can learn more about them here.