Officials Grab Drugs That Resemble Candy

March 17, 2006

Jessica Rutherford, ABC News

Creative marketing created some big trouble for twelve people accused of manufacturing marijuana-laced candy and sodas in the East bay area of San Francisco Friday.

The group — made up of both men and women — faced charges of cultivation of marijuana and aiding and abetting after federal agents raided 5 warehouses in Oakland and Emeryville Thursday morning.

 

"At four locations, we got indoor marijuana growth, and most importantly we found this marijuana candy factory," said Drug Enforcement agent Javier Pena. "We reported 25,000 plants. It's a big operation."

 

Officials say the locations are part of Beyond Bomb, a marijuana candy manufacturer with products "that mimic the name and appearance of well known, name-brand candies and products."

Products confiscated included Pot Tarts (a play on the name "Pop Tarts"), Stoney Rancher Lollipops (Jolly Rancher), Trippy Peanut Butter (Skippy Peanut Butter), Munchy Way (Milky Way), Budtella (Nutella) and Rasta Reese's (Reese's Peanut Butter Cups).

"[These] marijuana-laced candy bars and sodas look very much like the store-bought candy that we see on our shelves," said Pena. "If someone was to take this unknowingly, it would be potentially dangerous to that person."

But some Californians argue that marijuana-laced foods are necessary for medicinal purposes.

 

The Medicinal Marijuana Debate

 

Dege Coutee, a Los Angeles resident, takes medicinal marijuana for relief of chronic pain from a spinal injury. Edible products, she said, alleviate pain and allow her to sleep at night.

 

"The edibles have a nice sedative effect," Coutee said. "And when you do wake up, you don't have the effects of pharmaceuticals. I don't have to take another pill to wake me up in the morning."

 

"It's a way to get around the public nuisances of smoking," said Hilary McQuie, a spokesperson Americans for Safe Access. "And if people need to medicate at work that is a problem."

In 1996, California voters approved Proposition 215, which ensures "seriously ill Californians have the right to obtain and use marijuana for medical purposes." Individuals must have a doctor recommendation and carry a card that proves they need a particular drug.

But the federal government treats marijuana possession as a violation of law, regardless of state legislation, according to DEA officials.

 

 

 

"It's just marijuana — we don't differentiate, it's all illegal," said Casey McEnry, a public information officer for the Drug Enforcement Agency. "We enforce federal drug law, and federal law trumps state law."

 

 

 

DEA officials said the defendants — Kenneth Affolter, Jesse Monko, Elizabeth Ramirez, Camilo Ruiz-Rodriguez, James White, Amy Arata, Jaime Alvarez-Lopez, Barbara Alvarez, Nathan Woodard, Robert Blackwell, Maria Alarcon-Romero and Teresa Rojas — put people at risk by marketing their product after popular candy.

 

 

"We need to tell the public that they need to be careful," said Pena. "Check the candy wrapper — even if it looks like the real thing, check it."



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