With the passage of Amendment 3 in Missouri, recreational marijuana use is now legal in Columbia for adults aged 21 or older. This new statute is meant to benefit adults who choose to partake in marijuana consumption. However, there are still certain aspects related to the use of cannabis products that should be understood, as they can still lead to criminal charges. One of these issues is the potential for child endangerment charges when THC-infused products, such as gummies, are kept in a home where children present.
The dangers of THC gummies can be seen in recent news reports of cases across the country. These stories describe incidents where children have unknowingly ingested marijuana-infused edibles, leading to legal trouble for their guardians or other adults in the home. One recent example of this occurred in Alabama when a man left a package of THC-laced gummies in a child’s playroom. The individual was charged with chemical endangerment of a child after his girlfriend’s child consumed some of the gummies. In another case, a mother in Michigan was charged with second-degree child abuse – punishable by 10 years in prison – when her 6-year-old child mistakenly took a package of THC-laced gummies to school and shared them with fellow classmates.
Dangers of THC Gummies for Children
THC gummies are attractive to children, as they can look like regular candy or other snacks. The amount of THC in these edibles varies by product and the effects of the THC may differ from child to child. This can range from mild symptoms like confusion and sleepiness to more serious reactions such as vomiting, a rapid heart rate, seizures, and hallucinations. In extreme cases, ingesting THC-laced edibles can be fatal.
According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, there’s been a dramatic increase in the number of calls related to the accidental ingestion of THC-laced edibles in the last few years. Data from AAPCC shows that exposure to marijuana edibles in kids 12 and under jumped from 187 instances in 2016 to an incredible 3,100+ in 2020. The majority of these calls involved children aged 5 and under. This is especially concerning as children under 5 are especially susceptible to poisoning from THC-laced edibles.
Needless to say, it is extremely important to keep any THC-infused products securely out of reach from children.
Potential for Child Endangerment Charges
In Columbia, MO, child endangerment charges are extremely serious. These charges can be leveled at an individual when they recklessly place a child in danger of physical or mental injury. If a child consumes THC-laced gummies, the adult responsible for the child may face criminal charges. The consequences can be quite severe, including jail time and hefty fines.
These cases are also reviewed by Missouri’s Department of Social Services (DSS), which may take action to prevent the adult from having contact with children in the future, including making a determination as to if a parent or guardian should lose custody of their children.
Child endangerment or abuse in Missouri is a Class D felony, punishable by up to seven years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. The charges rise to a Class B felony in cases of serious injury (physical or mental), which carries a 5-15 year prison sentence. If a fatality results, then the charges become a Class A felony with a sentence of 10-30 years in prison.
Getting Legal Help for Child Endangerment Charges
If you’re facing child endangerment charges in Columbia, MO due to a child’s exposure to THC gummies, it is extremely important to seek out legal assistance right away. An experienced Columbia criminal defense attorney can help navigate the legal system and build a strong case. Because of the serious nature of these charges, it is critical to have an experienced legal team in your corner to protect your rights. This includes gathering evidence and witnesses’ testimony, negotiating a plea deal, or going to trial.
Contact Us to Learn More About How the Passage of Amendment 3 Can Lead to Child Endangerment Charges
The Law Offices of Chris Miller are experienced in Columbia criminal defense law and are dedicated to helping our clients with child endangerment cases. Our legal team has years of experience defending clients against these types of charges. We have a deep understanding of Missouri law as it relates to child endangerment and THC-related crimes. Contact us today for a free consultation.