Health officials see increase in kids hospitalized after eating THC gummies mistaken for candy

Doctors at Tampa General Hospital and state officials are sending out a warning to parents: Make sure your kids don't think that THC gummies are just another bag of candy. 

Poison Control Centers are seeing a huge increase in the number of kids eating gummies and winding up in the hospital

Florida's Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson hosted a roundtable Wednesday. Pictures were shown of confiscated THC gummy products that are made to look like popular brands of candy, including Sour Patches that are being labeled as "Stoner Patches."

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"In the most serious cases, kids can have seizures," said Dr. Justin Arnold with Florida Poison Information Center. "They can be comatose and have a breathing tube and a ventilator."

In 2021, there were 77 cases reported to Florida Poison Control Centers. In 2022, there were 933.

Forty-four percent were kids under 5 years old, and around one-third developed at least moderate symptoms.

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"Almost all of these children recover, but even having to go through this once is completely unnecessary," said Arnold.

Simpson highlighted a new Florida law that forbids sales to anyone under 21 years of age, and bans THC from being marketed like candy.

The department recently confiscated THC gummies from 475 stores, including 139 in the Tampa Bay area and is considering a second sweep to ensure compliance. 

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"I do not believe in this legislation it gave us the authority that we would need to shut these operations down, these stores down," said Simpson. "But it's certainly something on a second or third offense that we would be looking for that authorization."

The department found 26 stores in Hillsborough County, 45 in Polk County and 18 in Sarasota County were improperly selling the gummies. Officials said 70,000 bags total were confiscated, but doctors also want parents to be careful. 

"These products are becoming more accessible as parents have them around the house and not being put up and away, if they do have them, the kids see them eating this, and they think it's food or candy," said Arnold.

Legislators expect a push for stronger laws next session.