Watch live: Channel 2 News at 4 p.m.

Potent pot raises concerns for parents

DENVER -- There's a new marijuana trend and it poses new dangers for kids.

Wax, shatter, dabbing are very potent forms of marijuana. They are legal, unless you are younger than 21 years old. But police, schools and parents are finding that kids are getting their hands on the products.

The marijuana industry has changed so quickly that police, health experts and parents are struggling to keep up.

"After he was hospitalized, he admitted to me he was dabbing. I said 'What in the world is dabbing?' I had no clue what a dab was," Aubree Adams said.

According to a public service announcement put together by Smart Colorado, "Dabbing is a more potent and increasingly popular way of using high potency THC pot."

"I never dreamed I would know this much about marijuana," Smart Colorado founder Diane Carlson said. "I was really concerned about what I was seeing with teenagers. We formed so there would be a voice for kids. And since then, our sole focus has been focused on protecting kids.

"Parents are usually really blown away when they find out what these products are. I had no idea. I think voters thought they passed marijuana they knew. In the 1980’s THC potency was 2.4 percent. It's been steadily increasing."

Herbal Alternatives New Broadsterdam checks ID's several times, and it is open about educating parents.

"It is kind of on us too," a budtender said. "These products in the wrong hands could be dangerous so they should be enjoyed responsibly by people of age so we take it very seriously."

It has a supply of high-potency concentrates, labeled from 60 percent to 77 percent THC.

"Using the high THC marijuana of today, you are honestly playing Russian roulette. The science is there," Carlson said. "This can lead to permanent damage to the brain and implications for the rest of your life."

"We’ve seen a significant increase in ER visits among people who have used these potent marijuana products, sudden onset psychosis, seeing things that aren’t there, hearing things that aren’t there, feeling like people are following you, agitation," said Dr. Christian Thurstone, an adolescent psychiatrist who runs Denver Health's STEP program to treat teen addicts.

"We know especially potent products can actually cause anxiety.

"We know there is an association between marijuana use, depression, suicide. So it looks like the youth who use these potent products are falling into a deeper hole ... more severe addiction, looks like we are seeing more psychosis and related to that."

He said it is especially concerning for a child's developing brain.

"I think it’s really important for young people to know they have a developing brain and marijuana interferes with that process," he said.

Lynn Reimer founded the nonprofit group Act on Drugs. She visits schools every day.

"We are seeing marijuana taken out of elementary schools, middle schools and high schools all over the state," Reimer said. "The dabbing and high-end waxes are prevalent in schools. They vape in the classrooms, they’re dabbing in the bathrooms. They blackout, their heart races like crazy, they come to and they are extremely baked. ... Lots of kids rushed to the hospital."

Thurstone treats teenager who abuse drugs and has written a book on teen addiction. He said there are short-term and long-term consequences when adolescents used potent pot products.

"We’ve seen a significant increase in ER visits among people who have used these potent marijuana products, sudden onset psychosis, seeing things that aren’t there, hearing things that aren’t there, feeling like people are following you, agitation," he said.

"We know there is an association between marijuana use, depression, suicide."

Marijuana industry leaders say high-potency products should not be in the hands of children or teenagers.

"There’s a variety of reasons kids shouldn’t smoke cannabis," said Max Montrose, founder of The Trichome Institute. "One good reason is it’s not legal yet. And we do have studies that show it does impact child brain development. The cannabis industry isn’t afraid to say what it is true.

"None of these products are designed for kids. We have a regulated industry that keeps cannabis out of reach of children. I know every parent is really afraid of really high-potency concentrates that exist out there, but they are not being sold to your kids. I’ve never heard of a kid dabbing or using high-potency concentrates.

"The only people I know who use that stuff are people who have such a high level of tolerance that other forms don’t work. What I would tell parents about high-potency cannabis is the same thing I would say about low potency cannabis, keep it away from your kids, keep it locked up.

"Our industry makes sure every product is child proof packaging. It doesn’t matter how potent the cannabis is, you might have an uncomfortable experience with it, but it can’t kill you. If your kid unfortunately gets a high potency cannabis, at least it’s not heroin or at least it’s not alcohol."

But Adams' son did start to use heroin after abusing high-potency pot. She said she feels fortunate to have found her son help at a facility out of state. She is sharing their story so other parents will know what kids are doing these days.

"I’m here to tell you a dab is crack weed and it will ruin brains," she said.

There are strong opinions on both sides of this issue, but they do agree that pot, no matter how potent, should not be in the hands of kids.