Denver Toddler Hospitalized After Eating Pot Cookies

2½-Year-Old's Mother Charged With Child Abuse

A Denver toddler ate an unknown number of marijuana cookies last month after climbing a chair to get them from a freezer, police said.

The 2 ½-year-old boy's mother took him to the hospital March 19 after he appeared unusually lethargic, according to court records. The boy tested positive for THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, hospital officials told police.

The same day, the boy's mother, 25-year-old Denitra Vigil, was arrested on a misdemeanor child abuse charge, according to court records. She was released on $10,000 bond.

Authorities said the case is among a growing number of incidents in Colorado and across the country where children have ingested marijuana baked goods and other edibles. Some of the pot-laden food products were sold by medical marijuana entrepreneurs.

Jump In Child-Pot Ingestion Cases

"There's about a dozen incidents I'm aware of in the last year or so, and I don't think that's nearly all of them," Sgt. Jim Gerhardt of the Colorado Drug Investigators Association told 7NEWS Reporter Jaclyn Allen on Thursday.

He said other children who ingested marijuana edibles have been hospitalized, often in a "coma-like sleep where it's very difficult to get them to wake up."

As Colorado's medical marijuana industry -- legal under state law -- has mushroomed, the Rocky Mountain Poison Control Center has seen a jump in children being treated for eating or smoking marijuana, said Shireen Banerji, a center clinical toxicologist.

The number of child marijuana ingestion cases rose from 25 in 2009 to 61 in 2010, she said. There have been 21 cases so far this year.

The number of children age 6 or younger treated for pot ingestion was five in 2009, 10 in 2010 and four so far this year, she said.

Bill Seeks Child-Proof Packaging

Concern about children ingesting pot motivated state Rep. Cindy Acree, R-Aurora, to introduce a bill to ban the sale of any food or drink containing marijuana, even if it is approved for medical use.

The bill was amended to drop the ban but require that marijuana food products have proper labeling and child-proof packaging.

"The scary thing about this stuff is it looks like breakfast items or dessert items or soda pop," Gerhardt said. "So, the element of confusion for kids is tremendous."

Unlike prescription medications, medical marijuana products don't come in child-proof containers, he said.

"People have to think about their kids. You have to make sure these things are locked up," Gerhardt said.

In the Denver toddler case, the mother told police she was awoken on the morning of the incident by the sound of a bottle breaking in the kitchen, according to a search warrant affidavit.

Toddler's Mom Given 'Special Cookies'

Vigil said she got up and found the toddler running from the kitchen, and a broken bottle of strawberry vodka was on the floor, the affidavit said. She said the boy had climbed on a chair and opened the freezer, causing the vodka bottle to fall out.

Later, the mother said, "she noticed her son was not acting right and appeared to be sleepy," an arrest affidavit said.

The mother took him to the hospital, where tests found he had THC in his urine, the affidavit said. The boy continued to be lethargic late into the night, but he was in stable condition, a Child Protective Services worker told police.

Asked how the boy could have ingested marijuana, Vigil told police and a doctor that a friend had given her some "special cookies," and she knew they "contained weed," the affidavit said.

Initially, Vigil said there was only one cookie in a zip-lock bag in the freezer, and it didn't appear to have been eaten, the affidavit said.

But as a detective asked questions, "Vigil stated there may have been other cookies in the zip-lock bag, but she doesn't know how many," the affidavit said.

"She stated she thinks the 2-year-old child sealed the zip-lock bag and returned it to its proper location (in the freezer) after consuming an unknown number of … cookies," the affidavit said.

The mother said she kept the cookies in the freezer so her three children wouldn't get into them, the affidavit said.

Hospital officials alerted the Denver Department of Human Services, which oversees Child Protective Services, the affidavit said.

7NEWS was unable to contact Vigil at her home Thursday.

Vigil's defense attorney, Victor Stazzone, declined to comment on the case.

Children in California and Illinois have become ill in the past two months after eating cookies and brownies made with marijuana.

School Kids Sickened By Colorado Pot Cookies

In late February, several fifth-grade boys in Vallejo, Calif., got sick after eating Colorado-made pot cookies given to one of them by a convenience store clerk.

The ginger snap cookies were made by a Northglenn firm called Auntie's Edibles.

"We're MMJ (medical marijuana) caregivers in Colorado and bake delectable edibles for our patients and area dispensaries," the firm advertised on its Facebook page. "Requests are always welcome. Dispensary orders and contracts are also always welcome!!"

"Maple Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies ... Nothing Else to Say!" an Auntie's Edibles worker posted on the Facebook page recently.

Gerhardt said investigators have been unable to locate the bakery.

The cookies the Vallejo students ate came in packages bearing the slogan, "Eat this. It will make you feel better," the Associated Press reported.

After an 11-year-old shared the cookies with other boys at lunch, four of them told a teacher they were feeling nauseous and dizzy. The teacher then noticed the cookie package, which said it contained "cannabis butter," the AP reported.

Three of the boys were taken to a hospital and later released, officials said.

Booze Still Biggest Child-Abuse Threat

Despite rising concerns about pot and kids, traditional intoxicants continue to be the larger child-safety issue.

Denver district attorney spokeswoman Lynn Kimbrough said prosecutors had a handful of child abuse cases involving children ingesting marijuana in the past 18 months.

But she said her office prosecutes far more child abuse cases where parents are caught driving drunk with children in the car.

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