CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — As the nation’s consumption of recreational marijuana increases, health experts are calling for people to watch their little ones to prevent them from consuming edibles.

Those marijuana-infused snacks are catching the eyes of a younger crowd and experts said they’re landing more of them in the hospital.

“Obviously children, especially in the two- and three-year-old age range, they see something that looks similar to other snacks that they have, and they probably don’t understand that’s something that they shouldn’t get into,” said Southern Illinois University researcher Marit Tweet.

A study from the SIU school of medicine found that hospitalizations of children who ate edibles rose by almost 3,000 between 2017 and last year across the nation. The study also found the severity of cases increased, possibly because kids are ingesting the edibles in their entirety instead of the recommended doses.

“Because they are such a smaller body size compared to an adult, what may be a normal adult dose is going to affect a child much more,” Tweet added.

Tweet’s group wasn’t surprised when the number of hospitalizations started to grow, but their curiosity did grow when they saw how serious the effects were becoming. Central nervous system depression was the most reported symptom. Some of those cases resulted in major nervous system depression or comas.

“This should be treated like something that children could get into that’s a household hazard,” Tweet said. “Much like medications, or cleaning substances or things that people routinely try to keep their children away from.” 

Tweet said her study isn’t meant to shun those who use the drug, but instead bring awareness. It’s a sentiment that NuEra dispensary in Champaign shares.

“We have everything back there from gummies, chocolates, we have cookies back there that’s been a real big hit with the holidays,” said NuEra manager Alex Carretto.

Carretto also demonstrated how to safely secure edibles in their containers to ensure children cannot have access to them.

“Pinch down on the sides and disable the release,” Carretto said of the container caps. “And then you can hear it kind of click in there, too. So, it’s not going to be something you can just open up easily.”

NuEra even made changes to their packaging and shapes.

“We can’t have anything that’s shaped like a gummy bear,” Carretto said. “So, most of them is going to be a bland design whether it be a circle, a square or something like that.”

Tweet’s goal is to increase the discussion around the topic. Experts advised to keep edibles out of sight, out of reach and in their original packaging. She suggested contacting poison control immediately if any parent discovers their child ate an edible.