Simpson joined senior leaders from Tampa General and the Florida Poison Information Center Tampa, to discuss efforts to prevent unintentional consumption of high-potency THC products.
TAMPA, Fla., Aug. 16, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — Tampa General Hospital (TGH) welcomed Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture Wilton Simpson Wednesday to host a roundtable on the risks of unintentional exposure to high-potency THC products and state-level efforts to protect children and Florida consumers. Joining Commissioner Simpson at the roundtable discussion were Kelly Cullen, executive vice president and chief operating officer at Tampa General; Dr. Justin Arnold, associate professor in the Division of Emergency Medicine at the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine and Medical Director at Florida Poison Information Center in Tampa; Florida Senator Colleen Burton; Florida Representative Will Robinson; and Dr. Matt Curran of the FDACS Division Director of Food Safety.
“At Tampa General, we offer high-quality care to patients of all ages, from the simplest to the most complex cases. Some of these cases involve pediatric patients who unintentionally consume high-potency THC products disguised as candy or other familiar snacks,” said John Couris, president and CEO of Tampa General. “In partnership with Commissioner Simpson, we’re working to protect children by raising awareness of the risks associated with these products and ensuring they are properly labeled.”
“Together with our medical and policy partners, we have taken significant and meaningful steps to safeguard our children from the risks of high-potency THC products – but our job is not done,” said Commissioner Wilton Simpson. “Whether through closing dangerous loopholes in the law, prohibiting marketing that targets children, establishing age requirements for purchasing hemp products, requiring poison prevention packaging, or conducting inspections sweeps to remove illegal products, we will continue to work with our partners to ensure the safety of our children.”
During the 2023 state legislative session, the Florida Legislature passed Senate Bill 1676, sponsored by Sen. Colleen Burton and Rep. Will Robinson, to increase protections for consumers and impose restrictions on the packaging and marketing of high-potency THC products. The bill was signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis, and the law became effective July 1.
Commissioner Simpson is working to enforce this legislation through inspections of food establishments. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) in July and August uncovered 81,334 packages of hemp extract products, including euphoric, high-potency THC products. The products are packaged to mimic branded candy and other popular food snacks that are recognizable and appealing to children.
Ensuring that these products are properly labeled can prevent unintentional ingestion by children and reverse the rising trend of pediatric patients showing symptoms of high-potency THC.
“In 2022, 933 children were exposed to high-potency-THC products across Florida, many of whom required medical care and hospitalization,” Arnold said. “For these young minds and bodies at critical developmental stages, even a single exposure can be potentially life-threatening. We have also seen a significant rise in packaging for these products to be designed to target children.”
Poisoning from ingestion of high-potency THC can include central nervous system depression (e.g., lethargy, coma), confusion, agitation and ataxia. Nausea and vomiting are also common symptoms of THC ingestion. More significantly, low heart rate, low blood pressure, seizure activity and respiratory depression requiring intubation have been reported. Other notable clinical effects include tremors, hallucinations, abnormal eye movements, slurred speech and muscle weakness.
The Florida Poison Information Center Tampa, located at Tampa General Hospital, is committed to serving the people of Florida as a resource for fast, free and accurate information on poisonings. The Florida Poison Information Center Tampa can be reached year-round, 24 hours a day by calling 800-222-1222.
ABOUT TAMPA GENERAL HOSPITAL
Tampa General Hospital, a 1,040-bed, not-for-profit, academic health system, is one of the largest hospitals in America and delivers world-class care as the region’s only center for Level l trauma and comprehensive burn care. Tampa General Hospital is the highest-ranked hospital in the market in U.S. News and World Report’s 2023-24 Best Hospitals, with six specialties ranking among the top 50 best hospital programs in the United States. Tampa General Hospital has been designated as a model of excellence by the 2022 Fortune/Merative 100 Top Hospitals list. The academic health system’s commitment to growing and developing its team members is recognized by two prestigious Forbes magazine rankings – in the top 100 nationally in the 2023 America’s Best Employers for Women and sixth out of 100 Florida companies in the 2022 America’s Best Employers by State. Tampa General is the safety net hospital for the region, caring for everyone regardless of their ability to pay, and in fiscal year 2021, provided a net community benefit worth more than $224.5 million in the form of health care for underinsured patients, community education, and financial support to community health organizations in Tampa Bay. It is one of the nation’s busiest adult solid organ transplant centers and is the primary teaching hospital for the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine. With six medical helicopters, Tampa General Hospital transports critically injured or ill patients from 23 surrounding counties to receive the advanced care they need. Tampa General houses a nationally accredited comprehensive stroke center, and its 32-bed Neuroscience, Intensive Care Unit is the largest on the West Coast of Florida. It also is home to the Jennifer Leigh Muma 82-bed neonatal intensive care unit, and a nationally accredited rehabilitation center. Tampa General Hospital’s footprint includes 17 Tampa General Medical Group Primary Care offices, TGH Family Care Center Kennedy, TGH Outpatient Center, TGH Virtual Health, and 21 TGH Imaging powered by Tower outpatient radiology centers throughout Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas and Palm Beach counties. Tampa Bay area residents also receive world-class care from the TGH Urgent Care powered by Fast Track network of clinics. To see a medical care professional live anytime, anywhere on a smartphone, tablet or computer, visit Virtual Health | Tampa General Hospital (tgh.org). As one of the largest hospitals in the country, Tampa General Hospital is the first in Florida to partner with GE Healthcare and open a clinical command center that provides real-time situational awareness to improve and better coordinate patient care at a lower cost. For more information, go to www.tgh.org.
ABOUT USF HEALTH
USF Health’s mission is to envision and implement the future of health. It is the partnership of the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine, the College of Nursing, the College of Public Health, the Taneja College of Pharmacy, the School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences, the Biomedical Sciences Graduate and Postdoctoral Programs, and USF Health’s multispecialty physicians’ group. The University of South Florida is a high-impact global research university dedicated to student success. Over the past 10 years, no other public university in the country has risen faster in U.S. News & World Report’s national university rankings than USF. For more information, visit health.usf.edu.
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