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Lego-shaped pot product potent enough to kill a child seized by RCMP from illegal shop

Halifax RCMP says officers raided an illegal cannabis business in Timberlea, N.S., this week and seized $60,000 worth of pot and other marijuana-related products — some of which may appeal to children. 

A news release Wednesday said police seized, among other items, very high-potency THC products in the shape of Lego blocks from the business: Timberleaf Alternative Medical Society. The 500-mg dosage in those products is strong enough to kill a child, according to RCMP.

Two men have been charged under the Cannabis Control Act following the Monday raid, and police said they expect to charge others. Since Jan. 1, RCMP said the cash-only business made almost $1 million, but spent just $50,000 without paying any tax.

Doctors have voiced significant concerns in recent years, especially since recreational pot became legal in Canada in October, about the dangers of children accidentally ingesting marijuana edibles, particularly those resembling candy.

Cannabis-infused edible products are not yet legal in Canada, but are expected to become legal this fall.

In March, Atlantic Canada’s largest children’s hospital issued a warning about the risks of edible weed after a flood of cannabis-related calls to its poison centre. The IWK Health Centre in Halifax said it had fielded three times as many cannabis calls to its poison line last year than in 2015.

The hospital said last fall that some children have ended up in intensive care. Dr. Katrina Hurley, medical director at the IWK emergency department, said cannabis could be lethal for a toddler if enough was taken, particularly if the child has underlying lung or heart issues.

Poison centres across Canada have reported increased weed exposures since recreational pot was legalized, according to IWK officials, most notably with concentrated cannabis products and weed-infused food, especially in children 12 and under. 

‘The dose makes a difference’

In Manitoba, a two-year-old girl was rushed to hospital in February, suffered seizures and brain swelling, and ended up in a coma after eating part of a marijuana-infused chocolate bar with 750 mg of THC. Her condition improved and she was eventually discharged.

Dr. Margaret Thompson, medical director of the Manitoba, Ontario and Nunavut Poison Centres, said after the incident she doesn’t know of a case where a child has died as a result of cannabis consumption.

According to Halifax RCMP, the Timberlea store claimed to sell cannabis at a lower cost and of better quality than what is legally available through the NSLC. However, police said there is no quality control and products are often made using dangerous processes and toxic solvents. 

Police said illegal operations often take place in unsanitary conditions. One such illegal operation police shut down two weeks ago in Lower Sackville was manufacturing gel capsules by hand with a cannabis derivative in a room police said was “infested with rat feces.”

A 2016 Colorado study found accidental ingestion became an issue, particularly with toddlers, following marijuana legalization in that state.

Dr. Nancy Murphy, medical director of the IWK Health Centre’s regional poison control centre in Halifax, has said one way to help prevent accidental ingestion by children is the packaging.

“Child-resistant packaging has made a huge difference,” she said. “The way it’s labelled, having opaque rather than clear packaging so they can’t see what’s on the inside.”

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