reckless | 

Makers of cannabis jellies ‘put children at risk’ with packaging, says Dublin doctor

‘There is no way a child can differentiate between a cannabis sweet and a regular sweet,’ doctor warns

Suspected cannabis jellies

Ali BrackenSunday Independent

Two young children who unwittingly ate cannabis jellies in west Dublin last week have made a full recovery, but the producers of the products are recklessly endangering children, a senior medic has warned.

Dr Ike Okafor, a consultant in paediatric medicine at Dublin’s Temple Street Hospital and clinical director at Children’s Health Ireland (CHI), said Temple Street sees numerous cases every year of young children who become seriously ill after eating cannabis jellies.

“Accidental ingestion of cannabis jellies, that is of the most concern for us,” Dr Okafor told the Sunday Independent. “Some of these jellies contain 50ml of THC — the compound found in cannabis — per jelly. This is a very high concentration and is the equivalent of five to 10 joints per jelly. Because they are children, they often eat several, and that’s where the danger lies.

“There is no way a child can differentiate between a cannabis jelly and a regular jelly. They are packaged to look like sweets. They are extremely colourful, which of course appeals to children. I wonder, why is that so?

“It’s very reckless of the producers. They are of course illegal in Ireland anyway. My advice is that if you have children coming to your house, you should not have these products.”

A security source said three children who became ill after eating the jellies in west Dublin were attending a neighbour’s birthday party.

Two of the three children, understood to be aged between seven and 10, needed hospital treatment.

It can also be revealed that the father of the household where the children found and ate the jellies is known to gardaí for his involvement in serious crime.

A source said: “How would you feel if you sent your kids to a neighbour’s birthday party and they got poisoned? The father in the household where the cannabis jellies were found was investigated over a very serious, violent crime. The victim in that case declined to make a criminal complaint, so he was not prosecuted.”

Gardaí confirmed officers seized a small quantity of “cannabis-infused edibles”, marketed as “Runtz” sweets, during their investigation.

“Officers are conducting inquiries after a number of children — pre-teens — required hospital treatment following an incident at a residence in west Dublin on Sunday, February 26. It is understood the children became ill, having consumed a product advertised as cannabis-infused edibles,” they said in a statement.

“They have all since been discharged from hospital. A small quantity of this product has been seized and is subject to analysis by Forensic Science Ireland.”

Dr Okafor said Temple Street has also had teenagers presenting after consuming too many cannabis jellies, although in those instances they have knowingly taken them.

“Our biggest concern is always when it is young children,” he said. “A young child’s brain response is different because their brains are immature and not fully developed. This makes it more dangerous.

“We have had to send a child to the intensive care unit and numerous kids were put on oxygen. It can be very, very serious.

“Thankfully, all who have presented here have made a full recovery, but we are seeing a number of cases every year for the past few years. Internationally, there has been a big increase in children being poisoned by these products since they were legalised in some countries.”

Dr Okafor said he had a serious issue with the packaging of cannabis jellies as they “appear to be marketed at unsuspecting children”. He stressed that they are illegal in Ireland, but if people do have them, they should ensure no children can get at them.

“It is important for people to understand that these products are extremely unsafe for children,” he said. “My advice would be if you have children in your home, or coming to your home, you should not have them in your house. The problem with edibles is that because they are ingested, they take an hour or so to take effect. That means there is potential for kids to eat a lot of jellies before they become unwell.”

Six weeks ago, a man who was caught in possession of thousands of cannabis jellies was jailed for 33 months.

The value of the jellies seized by gardaí in Dublin in August 2021 was in dispute in Dublin Circuit Criminal Court on January 18, with gardaí estimating they had a street value of €10 per jelly, with a total value of €33,000.

However, the defence counsel submitted an independent drug valuation report that estimated the 3,000 or so jellies seized were worth only about €1 each.

Judge Martin Nolan ruled the total amount was “probably something in between” the asserted figures.

Kevin Shipley, a British man who was living in Spain at the time, pleaded guilty to counts including possession of cannabis for sale or supply.

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