A drug expert has called on Northlanders to keep all drugs out of children's reach after an 11-month-old girl became seriously ill from eating cannabis her drug-dealing father left in the kitchen.
The father, Shain Iperen, was a drug dealer who only sought medical help for the girl 24 hours after she ate the dope, but initially denied any exposure by the child to drugs when questioned by doctors.
The 27-year-old only admitted what happened to her after toxicology results at Whangarei Hospital showed an extremely high level - at the upper most limit - of screening undertaken for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the active ingredient in cannabis) present in her urine.
The toddler was semi-comatose, unresponsive to voice, and only responsive to stimuli by movement of her limbs when brought to the hospital on February 27.
Iperen pleaded guilty in Whangarei District Court to two charges of dealing with cannabis oil, one of ill-treatment of a child, and a representative charge of manufacturing cannabis oil. He was sentenced to two years and nine months in jail on all charges.
He admitted in court to continually dealing cannabis while he had sole care of the child, saying he would even take her with him to complete drug deals.
New Zealand Drug Foundation executive director, Ross Bell, said adults should show greater responsibility around personal drug use.
"If parents are choosing to have alcohol, cigarettes or some other substances, then they should act like responsible human beings and take much more care around those products. Some are just not aware they are leaving drugs lying around.
Also, their judgment is not always good because of drug use."
Mr Bell said there have been instances in the past where children have accessed and consumed alcohol or drugs that have cost them their lives.
Northland District Health Board paediatrician Roger Tuck said there should be no lasting effects on a one-off and accidental ingestion of cannabis by a child that young. However, he said an effect of children living in a house with regular drug use could be emotional neglect or adults not spending time with their children.
In sentencing Iperen, Judge Duncan Harvey said the skills of medical staff ensured the child made a full recovery.
Iperen and his partner separated in January but both shared custody of the child. Iperen initially told a paediatrician his daughter got hold of some cannabis but he did not think she had ingested any. He later told police she got up about 6am and went to the kitchen where it appeared she gained access to a box containing cannabis plant and played with it before consuming some of it.
Iperen said she looked fine for the rest of the day but he expressed concern in a text to his former partner that evening that the child appeared "all dopey".
She advised him to take her to the White Cross, but he did not despite later admitting that she could not stand, sit up, or do anything and was not to herself.
If medical attention had not been sought, there was a possibility the child could have stopped breathing.