NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Could you tell the difference between regular gummies and those containing THC? They all look almost identical outside the package.
Nashville affiliate WSMV News4 investigated and found children don't know the difference either, resulting in dozens of Tennessee kids ending up in the emergency room for accidental overdoses in 2021.
In Nashville, one caller begging for help for her son said, "are they on their way is all I need to know." Kelli Bowman made that 911 call to the Nashville Emergency Communications Center for her 20-month-old son.
"He just continued to fade away," Bowman said. "No response to cold touch and no response to our voices, so we called 911."
On a trip to the ER, Bowman said, "there was THC in his system. We were shocked." Bowman said her toddler ate a gummy he found in a relative's car containing Delta-8 THC. The psychoactive substance is derived from hemp CBD, which is legal in Tennessee and using a lab process it's extracted and concentrated to give someone a high similar to marijuana.
You can buy Delta-8 in the form of vape juice, gummies, and even cookies.
"There can be some pretty serious effects from THC Delta-8," Medical Director of the Tennessee Poison Center Dr. Rebecca Bruccoleri said.
Dr. Bruccoleri said Delta-8 is strong enough to cause hallucinations and severe vomiting in children. The smallest amount can knock a child unconscious, sending them to the ER.
News4 Investigates found that 115 cases of accidental overdoses of Delta-8 were reported to the Tennessee Poison Center in 2021, and 30% of those were children under 5.
"It's easier for a child when a product tastes good to take more of it and have more significant effects," Bruccoleri said.
Right now, at least 18 states have either regulated, restricted, or banned THC Delta 8. However, Tennessee is not currently one of them. Tennessee lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have noted this and want to make a change.
"This legislation, we're hoping if we can get support and get it through, that it will start regulating an industry that definitely needs regulating, said state Rep. Chris Hurt, R-Halls.
Hurt had no idea about the overdose numbers until News4 Investigates told him. So along with business regulations, his bill also includes an age restriction on who can buy Delta-8 to try and keep it out of children's hands.
"If we take steps and begin to educate people on what this does, hopefully, we'll see more responsibility by the people who purchase it," Hurt said.
Parents such as Bowman said more needs to be done to keep THC Delta-8 away from small children, so no parent has to go through the painful experience she did.