Police across Kent and the police eastern region are urging parents to be alert to signs of exploitation, as county lines gangs target children with cannabis disguised as sweets.

Over a six month period in 2021, there were almost 150 intelligence reports submitted about cannabis edibles across the region, and police are concerned that this figure could rise as county line gangs use the sweets to entice young people into working for them.

Cannabis edibles 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.

Detective Inspector 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 into working for them by supplying them with cannabis edibles before going onto exploit them, using them to carry out a wide range of criminal activity, including acting as couriers to ferry drugs from one area to another. 

“The edibles themselves are also dangerous. The illicit manufacture of such sweets means production is unregulated and thus levels of potency can vary, not to mention there being a high chance other harmful substances are mixed in. The fact that these sweets are also commonly supplied in packs, and that they can take longer than other cannabis products to start to take effect, means the potential for accidental overdose is highly likely, particularly in young people unaware of the dangers.

“We’re asking parents in particular to be aware of these products and look twice at any sweets or chocolates their children may have in their possession, as well as being alert to the signs that children may be involved in county drugs line activity.

“We’d also continue to encourage anyone with information about drug dealing activity in their local community to report it. All information is vital in helping us to build an intelligence picture across the region so we can then take appropriate enforcement action and protect people from further harm.”

Signs of criminal exploitation include:

  • Changes in mood or demeanour (i.e. acting secretive and withdrawn)
  • Changes in the way they dress
  • Unexplained or unaffordable new items such as clothes, jewellery, or trainers
  • Regularly going missing for long periods of time or staying out late with no explanation
  • Unexplained absences from school
  • Carrying lots of cash
  • A new phone or being in possession of more than one phone

If you have information that someone is dealing cannabis edibles in your area, contact your local police force either on their website or by calling 101.

You can also report any drug dealing activity, anonymously, on 0800 555 111 or through crimestoppers-uk.org

If your child has just taken an edible and you are worried about the effect it is having on them, call 111. If it is an emergency situation, for example if your child has lost consciousness, call 999 immediately.

For more information about cannabis edibles, visit the ERSOU website: Cannabis edibles | ERSOU 

For more information about child criminal exploitation, visit The Children’s Society website.

By Ed

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