DEA seizes pot-laced candy in raids
March 16, 2006
Angela Hill, ANG NewspapersIt looks like candy, but check the label on the Keef Kat or the Pot Tarts: "This product contains cannabis and is for medical purposes only."
Hundreds of boxes of such pot-laced candy, treats and soda pop — all with labels mimicking name-brand products — plus thousands of marijuana plants, $150,000 in cash and several weapons were seized Thursday during five simultaneous Drug Enforcement Administration raids in Oakland, Emeryville and Lafayette. Authorities called it the largest West Coast manufacturing and distribution operation of its type.
Twelve people were arrested without incident, said DEA Special Agent Javier Pena as he displayed samples of the candy and sodas in DEA offices in the federal building in downtown Oakland. Suspect Kenneth Affolter, 39, of Lafayette was identified as the head of the candy-making operation. All 12 suspects will be arraigned today in San Francisco federal court on charges of distribution of marijuana.
"We've seen a few of these products out there, but never in this magnitude," said DEA Special Agent Lawrence Mendosa. "It's the largest marijuana factory we've ever seen. Hundreds and hundreds of boxes. They were cooking the candies in a kitchen facility, labeling, packaging it and shipping it, mainly from the Oakland warehouse on the Emeryville border.
"But the real concern is for public safety," he said. "If a 4 or 5 year old who is too young to read finds this in a house, picks it up and eats it thinking it's real candy, it could be disastrous."
The Oakland-area investigation began in October, when authorities received information that Affolter was operating Beyond Bomb, a manufacturer of marijuana candy.
Nearly 70 agents served three warrants Thursday at warehouses on the Oakland-Emeryville border, including a Yerba Buena Avenue warehouse near Adeline. One warrant was served in downtown Oakland at a narrow, nondescript building at 1740 Telegraph Ave., and another at Affolter's Lafayette residence.
Agents found four sophisticated indoor marijuana growing areas, thousands of marijuana plants, about $150,000 in cash, two semi-automatic weapons, one revolver and hundreds of pot-laced packaged candy bars, snacks and soft drinks.
"It was basically various manufacturing locations and sophisticated growing operations," Mendosa said. "The products we seized are likely worth hundreds of thousands of dollars."
He said the products were packaged in large boxes wholesale style, for distribution to cannabis clubs and over the Internet.
Oakland medical marijuana advocate Angel Raich — who coincidentally was arrested Thursday in front of the federal building for disobeying an officer's commands while protesting recent Southern California DEA raids — said these were legitimate medical marijuana manufacturers under California law.
"They were all real operations," Raich said. "The one on Telegraph, they make candy for the dispensaries. It's for medical purposes."
Mendosa said that's not a factor. "It's illegal under federal law. Period," he said.
At first glance, the products appear as well-known name-brand products with modified names, such as Munchy Way, Rasta Reece's, Buddafingers, Pot Tarts, Keef Kat, Twixed, Budtella and Toka-Cola. The packaging comes complete with nutrition labels and dosage recommendations. On the frosted blueberry Pot Tarts, it reads, "Dose: One pastry. Do not exceed four pastries in a 24-hour period."
The Richmond, Oakland, Vallejo and Lafayette police departments assisted in the investigation, along with the Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement, the Contra Costa County Narcotics Enforcement Team and the Alameda County Narcotics Task Force.