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Ahead of the school summer holidays, we want parents to be aware of cannabis edibles which are increasingly being offered to young people across the country.
Cannabis edibles are food products which contain the mood-altering ingredient from cannabis (THC). They are illegal but available in many different forms, including cakes, sweets, chocolates and drinks.
Although cannabis edibles contain an element of the Class B drug, they do not have the smell or appearance of cannabis. They may also contain other illicit substances.
Instead, they look and smell like a normal shop-bought food item but can be stronger than other cannabis products.
And because of how they are packaged, they can be particularly appealing to young people and teenagers.
Indeed, we know gangs are using edibles as a ‘hook’ through which they coerce pre-teenage children into the county lines model. They do this particularly because children aged under ten-years-old are under the age of criminal responsibility.
Unlike smoking cannabis, swallowing cannabis is much easy to consume, however it takes longer to take effect. As a result, those taking them are likely to eat too many due to the delayed effect.
Their purchase is illegal in the UK, but we know the products are advertised for sale through social media networks – and therefore young people are at risk of seeing them.
Police forces are working with social media companies in order to clamp down on this practice.
Detective Sergeant Karen Osborne, of our Prepare, Prevent and Protect Team, which aims to tackle the use of drugs in young people before they encounter the serious violence associated with drug taking and the supply of drugs, said:
"With the summer holidays coming up for many young people, we want people to be aware of the dangers of taking cannabis edibles.
“Their consequences to young people – and indeed wider society – cannot be underestimated. The products may look harmless, and indeed ‘fun’, but they are very dangerous.
“Their effects are much-delayed, meaning young people are very likely to eat a dangerous amount before they even feel their effects.
“Let me be clear, the people who are selling these are drug dealers. Their product may not have the appearance of a drug, but their product most certainly is a drug – and a very dangerous one.
“Regular use of cannabis can have an impact on brain development, heart health, memory and cognition and psychiatric health.
“Long-term cannabis use can be especially concerning in teenagers. It may increase the risk of mental health conditions, such as schizophrenia as well as having an adverse impact on learning and memory.
“Please, do not take the risk.”
DS Osborne added:
“We know across the country that dealers are disguising these dangerous drugs as sweets to target and exploit young people.
“My message is that these people are not welcome in Essex and action will be taken against them.
“But we also need the public to play a part by passing on information to us on anyone selling or indeed taking cannabis edibles and you can do that by calling us on 101, or submitting a report online."
Laced with a mood altering ingredient from cannabis, cannabis edibles are an illegal and really strong ‘sweet’ aimed at young people and teenagers.
They come in the form of sweets, chocolate and drinks. Although cannabis edibles contain an element of cannabis, they do not have the smell or appearance of cannabis.
Instead, they look and smell like a shop bought item but are much stronger than other cannabis products.
Cannabis edibles can be difficult to identify. Sometimes the packaging differs slightly from shop bought items.
Differences are in the form of appearance, spelling or poor quality packaging.
Stay calm and try not to panic.
Assess the situation and gather the facts.
It may not always be possible but there are pieces of information which would be beneficial to know if medical treatment is required.
If the chid is conscious and responsive but not themselves as a result of cannabis edibles, gather the facts and phone 111 for advice and additional information.
If the child is stable, speak to your child at an appropriate time.
Their speech is slurred, their pulse is elevated, they are disorientated, unresponsive or unconscious.
We have also ensured schools have been briefed on the issue and we would encourage parents to also speak with them if there are any specific concerns.
Schools, of course, will be breaking for the summer very soon so information can also be passed to independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously by calling 0800 555 111.
Information can also be given to ‘Fearless’ anonymously by going to their website.