Three Paul Laurence Dunbar High School students who were hospitalized Monday ingested THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, according to Baltimore City school system officials.
One student had a seizure and another became unconscious during one of the school’s lunch periods. Dunbar principal Yetunde Reeves was notified that a student had collapsed. Within minutes, she received word that a second student had collapsed, then a third a short time later, according to Sherry Christian, a school system spokesperson.
Toxicology testing on the students came back Wednesday, according to Christian, who said the school system will now move forward in an investigation into how the students got the substance and who gave it to them. The school system may discipline students depending on what they discover, Christian said.
Five students reacted to taking the edible, but two of them were released to their parents and did not need to be hospitalized. The other three were released from the hospital by Monday night.
Marijuana experts have warned that the drug can affect children differently from adults, and area schools and health departments have sought to educate students since July 1, when Maryland legalized recreational marijuana use for adults. Nearly half of the states and Washington, D.C., have legalized such use.
If the students ingested gummies, they likely came from a dispensary given the difficulty in making them, even if the students didn’t purchase them themselves, said Renee M. Johnson, a Johns Hopkins University associate professor in the Center for Adolescent Health and the Center for Mental Health and Addiction Policy.
She also said it’s not unusual for kids to have more serious reactions. She pointed to an analysis by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing that marijuana-related emergency department visits among children under age 14 rose between 2019 and 2022 as more states legalized the drug.
“Emergency department visits following unintentional ingestion of edible cannabis products are not unusual, particularly for children or adolescents who do not use regularly,” she said.
The CDC analysis suggested protecting children from unintentional ingestion with safe storage practices in homes, programs to help kids cope with stressors in other ways and changes to packaging to decrease the appeal of edible cannabis products.
This story has been updated to correct the number of students released from the hospital Monday.