(Reuters Health) - State regulations for early care and education centers may not do enough to prevent children from being exposed to marijuana, tobacco or alcohol, researchers say.
Parents want to be sure their child care provider is not impaired by marijuana, alcohol or tobacco, but “our research concludes that state laws may not in fact prevent this from happening,” Elyse R. Grossman of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore told Reuters Health in a telephone interview.
Grossman and her colleagues found that almost all states have banned tobacco use in child care settings. But only 13 states restrict marijuana possession, 17 restrict tobacco possession, and 20 restricted alcohol possession.
“Without these regulations, young children may accidentally find and consume these products,” the researchers write in the American Journal of Public Health.
Overall, the researchers found, states regulate tobacco, alcohol and marijuana more strictly in child care centers than in home-based child care.
Eight states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana, but only five states have regulated it in childcare settings, Grossman and her team report.
Medical marijuana is legal in 29 states and in DC, but only half of those have such regulations in place.
“In some instances, new marijuana legalization laws actually contradict existing child-care regulations, which can result in unintended consequences that can put children in child care at risk,” Grossman said.
For example, she said, while both medical and recreational marijuana are legal in the state of Washington, the state bans home care providers from “having or using ‘illegal drugs’ on the premises or when working with or in the presence of children in care.”
She added, “It is important that states update their child care regulations and use precise language to better protect children from unintended exposure to marijuana or from impaired child care providers.”
Laws need to specify that marijuana be kept under a child-safe lock if it is being stored at a home-based child care provider, Grossman said. “Some states simply require products to be out of reach or inaccessible to children, versus locked, and I think that’s important. If it’s going to be allowed in a home, if it’s someone’s home that they are providing child care out of, then at least it needs to be locked away and very strictly kept where children cannot get to it.”
The question of whether a childcare provider or worker legally authorized to use medical marijuana should be able to do so while on the job is “a tough issue,” she added. “It makes a difference how much is getting used and whether the caregiver is impaired.”
Parents living in states with legal marijuana, medical or recreational, should ask their child care provider about the facility’s own policy on marijuana, she said, as well as about state laws regarding marijuana in the child care setting.
For example, she suggests, “Will the child care provider be smoking marijuana (either medical or recreational) around the children? Can the child care provider smoke while on a break from supervising the children? Will marijuana (either medical or recreational) be stored in the child care facility? If so, how will the child care provider ensure that the children do not access it?”
“Communication between parents and child care providers is essential,” Grossman said.
SOURCE: bit.ly/2jvYjKK American Journal of Public Health, online April 19, 2018.