'Cannabis sweets': NI schools issue warning to parents

By Robbie Meredith
BBC News NI Education Correspondent

image captionThe sweets contain THC - the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis

Schools in NI have been asked to warn parents and staff about pupils eating cannabis oil disguised as sweets.

The Department of Education (DE) said a young child had to be assessed in hospital after they "inadvertently consumed cannabis" when eating the sweets.

The warning came in a letter to all school principals from DE.

It said children could suffer hallucinations, nausea or vomiting if they ate the sweets.

The department said it was writing to schools after receiving a warning from the Public Health Agency (PHA).

"They are aware of products that look like familiar sweet products with colourful packets, familiar cartoon images and which are appealing to children, but that in fact contain cannabis extract, or THC (the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis)," the letter said.

'Longer lasting effects'

"A young child assessed in hospital had inadvertently consumed cannabis after finding what they believed to be a packet of sweets on the ground.

"While on closer inspection the sweet packet is labelled as containing THC, to all other purposes they look like a common brand of sweets which are marketed for children.

"The effects of THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) involves the central nervous and cardiovascular systems," the DE letter continued.

"In adults the effects are generally mild and short-lived but ingestion rather than inhalation is associated with longer lasting effects."

But the department said that as children often had a smaller body mass than adults the effects "may be more profound".

These could include loss of coordination, hallucinations, nausea or vomiting, lethargy, collapse or loss of consciousness.

The DE letter included pictures of some seized products which looked like sweets but actually contained THC.

image captionThe Department of Education said they are aware of products that look like familiar sweet product containing cannabis extract

Some had names that were slight variations on names of existing popular sweet brands.

School staff were asked to contact the PSNI or PHA if they became aware of children with the products.

Ferrara, which makes Nerds sweets, said companies that infuse its products with THC "infringes" its trademark and "creates a genuine consumer safety risk".

It explained that Ferrara "is in no way associated with these deceptive products, and want to reassure consumers that Nerds products found at major retailers are safe to consume".

"We continue to pursue various means to limit, and eliminate, these products, including cooperating with law enforcement agencies, investigating dispensaries and other retail outlets selling these infringing products, and pursuing legal action, where and when necessary, to protect consumers."

Haribo has also been contacted for a comment.

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