Gardaí in Dublin have seized a consignment of edible cannabis jellies amid a warning the toxic sweets are in circulation and could seriously harm children, over the Halloween period.
The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has also urged parents to be careful, saying if their children were unwittingly given a packet of cannabis jellies they were likely to eat more than one sweet meaning “overdosing is a very likely outcome”.
There is a growing availability in Ireland of food products that contain significant amounts of the psychoactive cannabis component known as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). These products are intentionally packaged to resemble popular brands to avoid detection.
The FSAI said eating one of these jellies can mean ingesting a level of THC that is “five to 10 times higher than that inhaled when smoking cannabis”.
So far this year six children under the age of 10 years have required medical treatment after eating cannabis jellies, which they believed were conventional sweets.
The FSAI said there have also been reports of teenagers falling seriously ill, and in some cases requiring hospitalisation, after having seizures and becoming unconscious from overdosing on these cannabis edibles.
Gardaí and the FSAI warnedd Halloween is a period of particular concern as young children were consuming large amounts of sweets from many different sources.
On Wednesday, gardaí from the Divisional Drugs Unit at Kevin Street station in Dublin’s south inner city uncovered a consignment of edible jellies during a drugs search at a flat in Dublin 8. Two suspects were arrested and the Garda’s investigation was continuing.
“As Halloween approaches Gardaí are again reminding the public of the dangers these edible products pose to children,” Garda Headquarters said on Thursday following the cannabis jellies seizure.
The FSAI said the high concentrations (up to 50mg/jelly) of THC in these products can pose serious health risks, particularly to teenagers and children of all ages whose neurological, physical and physiological development could be impacted negatively.
Depending on the THC concentration, eating one of these jellies can mean ingesting a level of THC that is five to 10 times higher than that inhaled when smoking cannabis.
“The real concern is that children are not aware of the dangers and if they manage to gain access to a bag of these jellies, they will rarely eat just one and, therefore, overdosing is a very likely outcome,” said the FSAI.
Unlike the almost immediate effects from smoking cannabis, there is at least a 30 minute time delay from consumption of cannabis edibles until the initial effects are felt.
“This poses a serious risk to those who have eaten these jellies who might mistakenly believe that they need to consume several jellies to feel an effect and then find they have overdosed when it is too late,” the food watchdog warned.
Cannabis toxicity can cause cognitive and motor impairment and in the case of children this can be extreme, lasting up to 24 to 36 hours after consumption.
FSAI chief executive Dr Pamela Byrne said: “We know adults and/or teenagers are ordering these illegal products from online or other illegal sources for their own personal use.
“However, they often have no understanding of the real health dangers of these products and are careless or reckless in putting young children’s health at risk by allowing them access to these products.
“The prevalence of these edible products containing THC in communities and schools around the country is a growing cause for concern and parents and guardians should be extra vigilant during festivities such as Halloween where parties will be under way.”