Police have issued a warning to parents that county lines gangs are targeting children with cannabis sweets to lure them into the shady world of drug dealing.
Forces in the east of England say over a six-month period in 2021 there were almost 150 reports of the sweets being found.
Now they are concerned that the tactic is on the rise as county lines gangs use them to tempt young people into working for them.
Police said the cannabis sweets are laced with mood-altering ingredients which can cause side effects such as the loss of consciousness or coordination, hallucinations, nausea/ vomiting, lethargy, and heart problems.
They are also illegal and anyone in possession of a product containing Class B drugs risks arrest and prosecution.
Det Insp Kelly Gray, from the Eastern Region Special Operations Unit (ERSOU), said: “We are starting to see an increase in the use of cannabis edibles by county lines groups, and are concerned about the groups enticing young people to [...] carry out a wide range of criminal activity, including acting as couriers to ferry drugs from one area to another.
“We’re asking parents in particular to be aware of these products and look twice at any sweets or chocolates their children may have, as well as being alert to the signs that children may be involved in county drugs line activity.
Last year a man and a boy in Guildford in Surrey were taken to hospital after eating the sweets.
What should parents do?
The Eastern Region Special Operations Unit said the sweets often contain high levels of drugs, and it can be easy to overdose on them, making them particularly dangerous. The full list of side-effects includes:
Loss of consciousness
Disorientation and confusion
Anxiety and paranoia
Changes in perception
Police said anyone who suspected their child had eaten some should seek medical help immediately.
They should then find out as much information as you can: what packaging was the edible in, how many they have taken, when they took them, and if they have taken any other substances such as alcohol.
If the child is conscious and responsive but unwell, ring 111 for advice.
If the child is unconscious or very unwell, for example if their speech is slurred or they are unresponsive, call 999 immediately.
County lines is a term used to describe gangs and organised criminal networks moving drugs from big cities to more rural areas using dedicated mobile phone lines or other form of “deal line”.