RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A new Virginia agency study shows more and more children are going to the hospital after ingesting edible hemp and cannabis products.

The data compiled by the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association (VHHA) show 629 kids — from infancy to 17 years old — went to emergency departments in Virginia in the first quarter of 2023.

“Some of these products actually do look and taste like candy and that really can be problematic, because they’ll eat the entire container,” said Dr. Chris Holstege, Director of the University of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Poison Center.

If you extrapolate Q1 statistics over the course of an entire year, the projected number of kids going to the hospital in 2023 will be 2,516. That’s a 62% increase over the 2020 number of 1,551 ER visits.

“[Children] can have issues with breathing,” explained Holstege. “Their heart rates are very fast. We have had some that have been admitted overnight to the floor with monitoring and others to the intensive care unit.”

Earlier this year, lawmakers passed legislation to limit the amount of THC allowed in hemp products. In addition, the law says products must be in child-resistant packaging and can’t bear any significant likeness to other popular products.

8News asked Holstege if he thinks the new law will make a difference.

“It’s hard to know,” Dr. Holstege said. “I am hopeful and thankful for the legislation. So, I think we are all waiting to see where the trends go. There is such a plethora of substances out there I still have my concerns and there is also enforcement, and we still have the problem that the public doesn’t understand the dangers associated with these products.”

The Virginia Department of Consumer Services began enforcing the new law on July 1.