Irish authorities have issued a warning about cannabis edibles after a number of hospitalizations this past month.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) National Social Inclusion Office said there has been an emergence of synthetic cannabinoids in jellies, known as gummies in the United States, and sweets sold as cannabis and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) products.

A few hospitalizations occurred following the consumption of Jolly Rancher jellies in December 2022 in the Tipperary region. Analysis from Forensic Science Ireland found these edible products contained substances known as synthetic cannabinoids. 

Synthetic cannabinoids are man-made chemicals that mimic the effects of THC, the main psychoactive compound in cannabis but they produce more intense adverse effects, according to health officials.

HSE said there was a high level of risk associated with THC edibles currently being sold illegally in Ireland, as sometimes they do not include THC but do contain a synthetic cannabinoid.

Officials said counterfeit edibles on the market are made in clandestine laboratories and the potency and contents cannot be guaranteed. A number of products seized recently and analyzed by Forensic Science Ireland were found to contain only synthetic cannabinoids and not THC as indicated on the packaging.

Issue gaining more attention
There is a growing concern in Ireland and elsewhere in Europe about the emergence of synthetic cannabinoids in products sold as cannabis or THC edibles and a number of warnings have been issued to raise awareness among the general public, including from the Public Health Agency in Northern Ireland.

Signs of synthetic cannabinoid exposure include feeling dizzy, confused, abnormal sweating, difficulty breathing or lack of breathing, chest pain or rapid heartbeat, nausea and vomiting, agitation, aggression, psychotic behavior, hallucinations, delusions, seizures, or fits.

The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) has previously expressed concern about the uncontrolled sale of goods on social media platforms. The Scottish Food Crime and Incidents Unit (SFCIU) said there was a link between the production, online marketing, and sale of cannabis edibles and organized crime groups.

Cannabis edibles seized by police

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) and police forces in England have also issued past warnings about jelly sweets containing cannabis.

Meanwhile, as part of Operation Heelfield by West Yorkshire Police in December, officers in Halifax stopped and searched a vehicle and found cannabis edibles. Sweets were packed in “Quality Heat” instead of “Quality Street” and “Ammo Minis” instead of “Aero Minis” bags.

A man was reported for possession of drugs. Police told the public to be vigilant if they see such items as they can contain dangerous amounts of THC and people sometimes do not realize the danger of consuming these items.

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