Call for awareness campaign on dangers of cannabis jellies and other products

by Rose Barrett
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Rose Barrett

Fine Gael TD for Dublin Mid-West, Emer Higgins has called for an ongoing awareness and education campaign regarding the dangers of cannabis jellies and associated products, which are often packaged to look like leading sweet brands and jellies.

Deputy Higgins was speaking following an increase in hospitalisations from cannabinoid use, which can cause significant health risks especially in relation to synthetic cannabinoids.

She noted this has become an issue in Ireland and throughout Europe. Deputy Higgins stated: “Cannabinoids are a group of chemical compounds which can be extracted from the cannabis plant and used in oil and edible form. The most prominent cannabinoid is referred to as ‘THC’, which is responsible for psychoactive effects commonly associated with cannabis use, and results in a euphoric high experienced by users.”

She continued: “Not all edibles contain natural cannabis elements and can contain a man-made chemical known as synthetic cannabinoids, which are designed to mimic the effect of THC in the body.

“Synthetic cannabinoids can greatly increase the risks of a drug emergency because they produce more intense adverse effects. According to the HSE, their use has caused many serious poisonings, mass poisonings and deaths internationally in recent years,” added Deputy Higgins.

“According to the Gardaí, synthetic cannabinoid products are relatively new to the market and they are more potent than THC. The packaging can be labelled as containing THC, but that is not always the case and users may not know what they truly contain or their origin.”

 She warned that packaging on illegal edibles is often deliberately bright and colourful to replicate a well-known existing sweet or jellies brand.

“What is concerning is how easily these illegal edibles can be obtained as they are available for sale through social media channels, through word of mouth or via text message,” she stressed.

“Separate figures from the HSE show that since 2018 to 2022, there have been 3,277 hospitalisations for mental and behavioural disorders due to the use of cannabinoids. This was up 50 per cent from 526 in 2018 to 790 hospitalisations in 2021, with this figure dropping slightly to 658 last year. In the same timeframe, there were 189 hospitalisations for poisoning due to the use of cannabis products.

“The HSE issued a warning to the public about synthetic cannabinoids appearing in cannabis and THC products after a small number of people were hospitalised in December 2022 after ingesting cannabis jellies with synthetic cannabinoids.


“Doctors have expressed concern through media about the link between cannabis edibles and significant associations with psychiatric disease like schizophrenia. They claim the psychotropic effects from eating cannabis can be delayed for hours and users would be inclined to take more as a result which is extremely dangerous,” she added.  

“Revenue figures indicate there were almost 1,000 seizures of cannabis edibles from 2018 to the end of May last, products with a combined estimated street value of €264,139. Government is acutely aware of the devastating impact that illegal drugs, drug dealing and related criminality have on communities across the country. Hence, additional resources were allocated to the Gardai  with over €2bn provided in Budget 2023, but I also think that an educational approach is needed.

“Therefore, it is essential that we have an ongoing HSE education and awareness campaign to alert all to the dangers of these drugs, through social media and also broadcasting channels,” Deputy Higgins concluded.

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