Are THC Gummies Toxic to Kids? Mother Charged After Child Dies

A tragic death of a 4-year-old child has raised questions about the troubles posed to children by tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, the principal psychedelic compound found in cannabis.

On Thursday, the Spotsylvania County Sheriff's Department in Virginia announced that Dorothy Annette Clements had been charged with felony murder and child neglect in connection with the death of her son, Tanner Clements. The child was found to be suffering from a medical emergency on May 6 at a home that he and his mother had been visiting. He died two days later.

The investigation into Tanner Clements' death eventually determined that it was the result of complications caused by the ingestion of THC gummies. The boy's mother initially told police that she had called poison control after he ate half of a CBD gummy and was told that he would be fine.

However, an investigation of the home later revealed an empty tin of THC gummies. A subsequent toxicology test also determined that the boy had "extremely" high levels of the compound in his body, according to The Free Lance-Star. The office of the Chief Medical Examiner of Virginia told WSOC 9 News last week that his cause of death was officially listed as delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol toxicity.

thc gummies toxic for kids
Above, a representational shot of medicinal marijuana gummies. A mother has been charged with murder after her young son died after ingesting THC gummies in May. David McNew/Getty Images

Are THC Gummies Toxic to Kids?

The 4-year-old's death has renewed concerns for some over the dangers posed to children by THC products. While the compound and the various plants that contain it are generally known to be less harmful than other drugs, it can still pose considerable risks to young children.

The main issue posed by gummy products is that the amount of THC they can contain is not regulated by any official body and vary widely. According to WebMD, numerous gummy products can contain as much as 10-15 milligrams of THC, while the amount recommended for adults using the drug for the first time is 2.5-5 milligrams.

It is generally agreed that no amount of THC is safe for children. WebMD states that children who consume edibles can experience the symptoms of "marijuana intoxication or THC poisoning." These can include the following: altered perceptions, slurred speech, increased heart rate, intense sleepiness, trouble breathing, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, weakness, poor coordination, and seizures. The effects are believed to be more severe for children under 10 years of age. Children are also liable to consume more than knowledgeable adults, as they might perceive a product as a normal candy.

Parents who believe that their child has consumed any amount of THC-laced product are urged to call poison control as soon as possible. Investigators in Tanner Clements' case believe that he might have survived had he received medical attention sooner.

Despite the risks posed to children, natural THC and marijuana are not known to pose a notable risk of death, though it is not unheard of, especially from synthetic THC products. It is possible that Tanner Clements' case was exacerbated by other factors. It is not currently known exactly how many gummies he consumed or how much THC his body was found to contain post-mortem. His mother also later claimed that the investigation into his death revealed an unspecified issue with his heart, and that the THC caused him to experience a cardiac episode.

Newsweek reached out to the Spotsylvania County Sheriff's Office for comment.