Cannabis jellies are being packaged like sweets in a sinister attempt to target young adolescents into recreational drug use, a leading addiction counsellor believes.
And the fact that a recent garda drug seizure in Cork of cannabis jellies alongside a quantity of cocaine is extremely worrying, Cuan Mhuire expert Michael Guerin said.
He was speaking after the seizure on Wednesday of almost €94,000 worth of cannabis products in Limerick and the seizure of just over €2,000 worth of cannabis products, including jellies and vaping oils, in Cork city.
He said Cuan Mhuire has seen a dramatic reduction, in recent years, in the age of first use of cocaine, to as low as 13, coupled with a doubling, over the last five years, in the numbers seeking help for cocaine addiction.
“We have cocaine addicts in their early 20s who come to us for help telling us that they were first introduced to cocaine as 13- and 14-year-olds,” he said.
“Maybe I’m stretching it a bit but the seizure of the cannabis jellies along with a quantity of cocaine in Cork the other day is worrying. It would seem that young people are being offered one with the other.”
Gardaí arrested a man in his 20s on Wednesday night after seizing €6,375 of suspected drugs during a raid on an apartment on Barrack St, Cork at 8pm.
They seized €4,200 of cocaine and €2,175 of cannabis oils, cannabis vape pens and cannabis jellies.
The man was subsequently released without charge and a file is being prepared for the DPP.
On the same day in Limerick, gardaí arrested a man in his 20s after seizing €115,900 of suspected cannabis during a search at a house in the Castleconnell area and a parked car.
They seized €22,000 of cannabis herb during the house search and €93,900 of cannabis products during the car search.
“It’s clear that these jellies and vaping oils are being distributed as an attempt to get more youngsters into recreational drug use. It’s as simple as that,” he said.
“We saw a similar trend with ecstasy in the 1980s and 1990s when they were made into heart or teddy bear shapes to make them less dangerous looking.
“There is no doubt they are targeting young adolescents as customers.
"We have seen many tragic deaths of young people who took something believing it was something else.
“There are synthetic substances, opiates and stimulants that are lethal at minute doses and which may be either deliberately laced with, or accidentally contaminated with deadly products. And the consequences can be catastrophic.”