Wed | Nov 29, 2023

5 children still hospitalised after eating weed-laced sweets

Published:Tuesday | October 3, 2023 | 12:11 AMCarl Gilchrist/Gleaner Writer
The THC-laced candies that were sold to children, making them ill.
The THC-laced candies that were sold to children, making them ill.

Five students of the Ocho Rios Primary School remained hospitalised up to last night in stable but critical condition after more than 60 of them were rushed to hospital after eating sweets containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a major psychoactive component in marijuana.

It is claimed an unfamiliar vendor turned up at the school gate on Monday morning selling what a regular vendor described as “gummy weed” packaged as Sour Belts, and marked as containing Delta-8 THC.

Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton and Education Minister Fayval Williams visited the hospital as news of the event spread.

“There are approximately nine children that are still here, five are likely to be admitted because of dehydration, drowsiness, and dizziness and may have to be kept here overnight for observation and treatment. The majority have been sent home having been examined and to some extent treated,” Tufton told reporters shortly after 6 p.m.

“A quick examination of the packaging suggests that it is marijuana extract-infused edible package and looks as if it’s being marketed to children. This product was not given any approval to be imported into the country; the Government does not support, through the approval process, any marijuana edible products.

“We have the product. We’re going to test to see the extent of the THC, but, for now, the most important thing is to protect the lives of the youngsters and to ensure there is no lasting impact on them psychologically or otherwise.”

Tufton described the situation as “serious” and urged persons selling the product to desist from doing so.

Williams, meanwhile, expressed shock at the incident.

“I am extremely, extremely alarmed at what I saw here this afternoon. To hear people say they’re drowsy and to actually see the children, they looked drugged out; it’s that dramatic,” Williams said.

She urged parents to be aware and said the ministry was going to take another look at how easy it is for vendors to access schools.

The vendor reportedly turned up at the school during the morning shift, which caters to the older students, leaving the younger set of students in grades one and two to attend the evening shift. While students began falling ill and disrupting the morning proceedings, the afternoon shift went ahead smoothly and dismissed at the regular 5 p.m.

Grade four teacher Nicole Clarke-Goodfellow said she was quite distressed by the incident.

“I’m pretty shaken up by this. I’m really shaken up,” Clarke-Goodfellow said. “As a teacher, and a mother as well, I have to be very thoughtful of other children out there and for the person who decided to sell these things, ... I’m trying to find out if they understand what the product is, how dangerous it is.”

The teacher said it was during the lunch break – 10:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. – that an announcement was made over the intercom for students who had bought the product to take them to the office.

“Right there and then, I thought to myself that something is happening that’s dangerous,” she said.

The teacher revealed that one girl from her class was affected.

Senior Medical Officer Dr Tanya Hamilton-Johnson said the affected students started arriving at the hospital around 12:30 p.m.

Meanwhile, Principal Suzette Barnes-Wilson praised the staff at the hospital for their professional handling of the situation and also the school bus driver, several parents and the police who helped in transporting the children to the hospital.