IRELAND – The Irish Health Service Executive (HSE) has raised an alarm about synthetic cannabinoids masquerading as Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) edibles, in sweets and candies that have led to a few hospitalizations.

In December 2022, the HSE’s National Social Inclusion Office (NSIO) reported that the hospitalizations resulted from consuming fake Jolly Rancher gummies in Ireland’s Tipperary Region.

Forensic Science Ireland’s investigation revealed that the illegal consumable goods included synthetic cannabis.

According to NSIO, synthetic cannabis have recently been linked to worldwide poisonings and fatalities.

Synthetic cannabinoids are manmade chemicals produced to mimic the effects of THC, the main psychoactive compound in Cannabis. 

THC is a controlled substance in Ireland with zero tolerance under the Misuse of Drugs Act, 1977. Moreover, in food, THC is considered a contaminant, with no permitted threshold in EU or Irish food law.

Depending on the THC concentration, eating one of these jellies can mean ingesting a level of THC that is 5-10 times higher than that inhaled when smoking cannabis.

Instead of THC, some products contain a synthetic cannabinoid that will produce similar, more potent effects. 

Such synthetic cannabinoids have more severe negative effects than THC, which may significantly enhance the chances of a drug emergency.

Furthermore, according to NSIO, the potency of commercially accessible counterfeit edible products cannot be assured.

Forensic Science Ireland recently seized a number of these items, investigated them, and found that many of them contained just brand-new, deadly synthetic cannabinoids, not any THC as stated on the packaging.

Growing interest in the problem

The advent of synthetic cannabinoids in products advertised as cannabis or THC edibles is causing rising concern in Ireland and elsewhere in Europe

Several warnings have been issued to increase public awareness, including by the Public Health Agency in Northern Ireland.

Exposure to synthetic cannabinoids can cause symptoms such as drowsiness, confusion, abnormal perspiration, irregular breathing, chest pain, a rapid heartbeat, nausea, vomiting, agitation, hostility, psychotic behavior, hallucinations, delusions, seizures, or fits.

Concerns over the unrestricted sale of items on social media platforms have previously been voiced by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH).

According to the Scottish Food Crime and Incidents Unit (SFCIU), there is a connection between organized crime syndicates and the businesses which produce, advertise, and sell edible cannabis products online.

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