Published May 24, 2023
Public advisory: Accidental ingestion of illegal "copycat" edible cannabis products causing serious harm to children
Health Canada is reminding Canadians of the risk of serious harm if children accidentally consume edible cannabis. Health Canada is aware of several cases of children being hospitalized, particularly after consuming products that are illegal and unregulated.
Illegal edible cannabis products may be packaged to look like popular brands of candies, snacks or other food products that are typically sold at grocery stores, gas stations and corner stores. These products are illegal and prohibited under the Cannabis Act and its Regulations.
Legal cannabis products are packaged in plain packaging, which helps reduce their appeal to youth and avoids them being confused with other products. Legal cannabis product packaging also comes with a Health Warning Message in a yellow box, the red cannabis symbol, an excise stamp, and is packaged in child-resistant packaging to prevent children from being able to open the product.
Examples of copycat illegal edible cannabis can include cereal and snack foods such as chips, cheese puffs, cookies, chocolate bars, and a variety of popular candies in colorful packaging. These products can contain high amounts of THC, which increases the risk of experiencing adverse effects or poisoning. Parents and children may not be able to recognize these products as anything other than their favourite brands of candy or snack foods.
Children and pets are at a greater risk of cannabis poisoning. Although cannabis poisoning is not known to be fatal, accidentally consuming too much cannabis at a time (also known as cannabis poisoning) can lead to temporary adverse affects (see below).
What you should do
When purchasing cannabis, purchase only legal and regulated cannabis products in plain packaging with child-resistant features and only from provincially and territorially authorized retailers. Store all cannabis products securely and out of the reach and sight of children, teens, and pets.
Who is affected
Children and young persons are at risk of serious harm if they accidentally ingest cannabis.
Signs that a child has ingested cannabis can include:
• chest pain
• rapid heartbeat
• psychotic episode
• slowed and ineffective breathing (respiratory depression)
• severe anxiety
• panic attack
• slurred speech
• unsteadiness on feet
• muscle weakness
• loss of consciousness
What consumers should do
If you possess cannabis, store it securely away from children, teens, and pets. Be careful with edible cannabis, which can be mistaken for regular food or drink, especially when it is removed from its original packaging. Consider storing cannabis products in a locked drawer or box, and separate from regular food or drinks. More information on safe cannabis storage can be found here.
If someone is having a serious medical emergency related to a cannabis product, call 911, or contact your regional poison center. This fact sheet also has information about cannabis poisoning that can help guide you. If you have questions or concerns about cannabis and your health, consult your health care practitioner.
Please read Health Canada's public advisory for more information.
Health Canada – Prairies and Northern Region