CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Who sold them drug sweets? Police investigate after pupils fall ill at school

Parents warned to be "vigilant" after incident

08 October, 2020 — By Bronwen Weatherby

Drug-laced Nerds sweets containing high dose of THC

POLICE and schools have launched an investigation into how easy it is for teenagers to buy “cannabis sweets” after 13 pupils fell ill after eating them this week.

The students at La Sainte Union Catholic school, in Highgate, suffered nausea, dizziness and vomiting and needed to be taken to hospital in a convoy of ambulances.

All of the youngsters were checked over on Monday, with some kept in overnight as a precaution.

Their parents have been asked to take a written statement from the children about how they obtained the sweets, which were laced with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the psychoactive component of cannabis.

A picture of the sweets was distributed across the borough’s schools by police on Tuesday, as headteachers urged families to help avoid another incident.

Garishly green, the packaging resembles the brand Nerds, a confectionery sold in newsagents and sweet shops.

Emergency services took the students to hospital

On closer inspection, however, a label states that they contain 600mg of THC and a full name of “Medicated Nerds Rope Bites Super Potent Formula”.

Police will now look to see if they had been sourced online or by a dealer in Camden.

The sale of high-inducing foods and drug paraphernalia has long been recognised as an issue in Camden Town – which has a tourist guide reputation for its counter-culture atmosphere and bohemian character – with officers regularly cracking down on shops.

Asked if any stalls or shops were still selling cannabis sweets, Inspector Richard Berns said: “If there are, it’s because we are not aware.

“I would therefore urge the public to let us know if they see any shops selling bongs, crack pipes, cannabis lollies, cakes or cookies.

“If there is nearby crime and anti-social behaviour, that can be linked to the sales, we will take action.”

School head: “Thank you to all who have been helpful and supportive”

He added: “One of the many reasons we shut down and stop shops selling sweets like this in Camden is they appeal to children.

“I’m not saying it’s a gateway to drugs but drug-branded cookies, cakes and sweets do present illegal drugs as harmless and fun, which of course they are not. They are far from harmless, as we see each and every day.”

Hemp products sold in some shops in the area, including some health food products, can be offered legally because they have the THC element removed or reduced to a tiny dose.

In a letter sent to schools on Tuesday, Sergeant Tim Owen, of Camden Safer Schools, wrote: “Early indications are that they [the pupils] will all make a full recovery but we await confirmation. We understand the sweets probably contained THC, which is the principal psychoactive substance in cannabis, and the dose each sweet contained was potentially very high.”

He added: “We await forensic testing to confirm this and a police enquiry is underway to ascertain the circumstances around this incident.”

Headteachers have sent extra messages to pupils’ homes, asking parents to be vigilant. John Hayes, head at Gospel Oak Primary School, asked parents to “talk to your children about the dangers of eating anything if they do not know what it is or where it has come from”.

Five ambulance crews went out to La Sainte Union, in Highgate Road, at around 11.45am.

The school said it is helping the police with their enquiries, with headteacher Sophie Fegan adding in a letter: “We are working with the police to identify the origin of the ‘sweets’.”

The 159-year-old school, rated “good” by Ofsted, caters for more than 1,000 girls aged 11 to 18 and counts Harry Potter actress Imelda Staunton, N-Dubz singer Tulisa and space scientist Maggie Aderin-Pocock among its alumni.

In an update last night (Wednesday), the school said: “We are relieved that the students who were hospitalised on Monday are now all fine – thank you to all who have been helpful and supportive.”

Camden’s education chief, Councillor Angela Mason, said: “Our immediate concern in these circumstances is for the pupils – and we hope they feel better very soon. We are working closely with the school to support them at this time.”

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