The British tabloid press is reporting on a 10-month-old baby who had to be rushed to the hospital after accidentally swallowing cannabis. Police in Lyon, France, arrested the baby’s parents after they checked their child into the emergency room. Stories say the infant is currently in a coma and fighting for its life. At this point, details on the situation are scarce. But the 10-month-old’s hospitalization is being linked to a similar incident in France in April. Both France and the UK have strict laws prohibiting non-medical cannabis use and restricting medical access.
The conversation over cannabis legalization in the UK was reignited earlier this year, when the case of 12-year-old Billy Caldwell came to national attention. Caldwell relied on THC and CBD cannabis oil to treat his life-threatening epilepsy. But his mother had the boy’s medicine confiscated at London Heathrow airport as she returned from Canada, where she had to fly to purchase the oil.
Outrage over the incident mounted to a public outcry that jolted public officials out of their complacent opposition to legal cannabis. Ultimately, British Home Secretary Sajid Javid announced a comprehensive government review of legalization, paving the way for real policy reform and setting the UK on the path toward broader legalization. Yet while many conservatives in parliament are changing tack, some are holding fast to well-worn anti-cannabis talking points.
The Sun, founded in 1964, is a conservative tabloid publication. And it often prints sensationalized stories about cannabis to stoke continued fear and hysteria over the prospect of legalization. Today’s story about a comatose French baby who swallowed cannabis bears many of the traits of such coverage. The use of a tragic story about addiction and abuse to present cannabis as a menacing threat to children’s safety.
The 10-month-old French baby hospitalized today for consuming cannabis didn’t eat edibles or concentrates. She ate raw flower. But raw flower contains enough cannabinoids to present life-threatening effects in infants. There aren’t very many studies on this, fortunately due to the rarity of reports of adverse effects in very young children. However, a handful of studies between 1989 and 1996 identify cases where ingesting raw flower or edibles led to comas in infants. The purpose of those studies was to educate pediatricians on the need for diagnostic tools that screen for cannabis ingestion.
In the case of the other infant referenced in the Sun article, doctors concluded she had swallowed cannabis resin and inhaled significant quantities of secondhand cannabis smoke. In both of the children’s cases, police investigations uncovered multi-drug abuse among their parents. Lyon police charged the 10-month-old’s father with the administration of harmful substances and neglect of a child. And in the April incident, lab results showed the presence of cocaine and ecstasy in the infant.
These are stories about environments of abuse and neglect. They’re tragic and all too common. But their framing in these cases places the emphasis on cannabis, rather than the context. Parents do need more education about the risks cannabis poses to young people. But the broader culture can also benefit from learning about responsible cannabis use. And even the potential for cannabis to help in the fight against serious drug abuse and addiction.