Cannabis ‘gummies’ or ‘edibles’ packaged to look like popular sweet brands are being promoted and sold on social media. Sky News highlighted recently that dealers are operating across Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and Snapchat. They are also using messaging services Whatsapp and Telegram.
A haul in East Sussex saw police recover a large amount of edibles, as well as more than 5kg of cannabis and cannabis resin. Inspector Aidan Cornwall noted that the items were produced in “often unsanitary conditions and with no quality control. It means those consuming these products have no idea what the strength of them will be, nor what contaminants they may also contain.”
Essex Police, meanwhile, warned that the sweets “do not have the smell or appearance of cannabis. Instead, they look and smell like a normal shop-bought food item.” Edibles typically contain THC, the psychoactive element of cannabis. When eaten, its effects can include a dry mouth, nausea, hallucinations, difficulty breathing and anxiety. Swallowed cannabis also takes longer to have an impact, which increases the risk of an overdose.
Karen Osborne, Detective Sergeant, Essex Police said that the consequences to young people cannot be underestimated. “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.”
There are also concerns the drugs are used to lure children into trafficking drugs by county lines gangs, which use youngsters to deliver and sell drugs to users in provincial towns and rural areas.
“We don’t know where to find the manufacturers or what is being put in these sweets or in what quality. We can’t track down the producers to work with them or to take action against them.”
Julie Barratt, CIEH President said: “These largely unregulated sites are like the wild west. If they were being sold in the high street there would be a requirement to declare ingredients, declare the presence of allergens and the name of the manufacturer, so that purchasers and the regulators are informed.
“As it now is, we as regulators know no more than the public at large. We don’t know where to find the manufacturers or what is being put in these sweets or in what quality. We can’t track down the producers to work with them or to take action against them.”
Paul Tossell, Head of the Novel Foods and Radiological Policy Team at the Food Standards Agency (FSA) confirmed that, legally, the products are a narcotic under the Misuse of Drugs Act and “as such would not be considered a food”. Therefore, where there is potential concern over THC in a product, local authorities should refer them to the local police.
However, Barratt questioned this approach. “Drugs are creeping into the food chain and I’m not aware of any discussions having taken place between the police, environmental health or trading standards.
“Unfortunately, so far as sale of foodstuff on the internet is concerned, legislation is having to run to keep up, and enforcement is always a step behind.”