Long-term effects unlikely for people who ate THC-laced cake at Eskasoni school

The medical director of the IWK Regional Poison Centre in Halifax says she doesn't expect any long-term effects after some people in Eskasoni, N.S., accidentally ate cake laced with cannabis on Friday.

RCMP say fewer than 10 people — including some staff and students at the Eskasoni elementary immersion school — were affected and not all have tested positive for THC, the active ingredient in cannabis.

"Unless you're using it regularly, which obviously pediatric patients typically do not at that young an age, then we do not expect any long-term effects," said the IWK's Dr. Nancy Murphy.

She said it is difficult to know what the possible effects on children could be.

"If you know for a fact that it was a cannabis edible, the tricky part about that is you don't really know what dose they got, but certainly small children are at higher risk of developing toxicity from cannabis, simply because they are naive to the effects and in addition to that, they are of a small weight," Murphy said.

How the cake ended up at the school

RCMP say a local catering company sent the cake to the school and on Monday, police said they are still trying to figure out how that happened.

About 200 students attend the immersion school from kindergarten to Grade 5.

Murphy said edible cannabis products are difficult to distinguish from other foods and they are often created in a form that is attractive to children, such as candies and cookies.

In a lot of cases, people might not know if their child was poisoned by edibles because the symptoms are not specific to cannabis.

They can include anxiety, vomiting, sleepiness and a loss of balance, Murphy said.

'Label and lock up' edibles

The best advice for people making edibles at home is to take strong precautions to protect others, she said.

"It really should be labelled and locked up," Murphy said. "That's really the general message of all poison centres at all times for any potentially toxic product."

Alice Herney has two children attending the Mi'kmaw immersion school and is upset about the matter.

"I send my kids to school to be safe," she said. "I think that cake should have been labelled, if anything."

Herney said her five-year-old son has had a cold, but he was feeling worse on Friday.

She said after she found out on Saturday about the cake laced with cannabis, her son was tested for THC, but the results aren't back yet.

The IWK poison centre has seen a significant increase in calls over cannabis edibles in the last few years. With the legalization of cannabis and the interest in edibles, Murphy said experts expected calls to poison centres to rise.

Spike in calls about edibles

From 2008 to 2016, the centre received a total of 13 calls for cannabis edibles, or fewer than two calls per year on average.

In 2017, the centre received 12 calls, but in 2018 it took 25 calls.

Last year, the number rose to 37 calls and in January of this year, the centre received 11 calls.