Drug-laced candies intercepted

Thursday, September 26, 2013 ~ Updated 5:14 PM
Barry County Sheriff Mick Epperly has issued a warning to residents of Barry County to be hyper-vigilant this Halloween season in an effort to prevent children from accidentally ingesting drug-laced candies that may be circulating in the area. He is pictured above with THC-infused candies intercepted at a Joplin post office. Democrat photo/Roberts

Barry County Sheriff Mick Epperly wants area parents to be hyper-vigilant this Halloween in the wake of a recent interception by drug enforcement officials of candy laced with THC.

"This package was actually intercepted by Jasper County officials and turned over to the Southwest Missouri Drug Task Force," Epperly said, indicating several packages of marijuana-laced candy, brownies, jellied candy, a pecan bar and breath mints. The package also contained four bags of "high quality marijuana" and two smaller containers of hash, a marijuana concentrate.

"This was sent to a Joplin post office from Colorado," Epperly continued. "It was destined to go to Pineville in McDonald County. Acting on a tip, officials seized the package."

"We believe an individual shipped this package to Missouri," Epperly said. "Manufacturers won't ship this product to states where it's not legal."

The packages contained a variety of candy items that appeared as innocent as anyone would find on a grocery shelf. Only the label was different, indicating the items had been laced with THC, the chemical found in marijuana that brings about a euphoric sense of well-being.

In the hands of a child, the results could be devastating.

Large doses of THC can produce confusion, amnesia, delusions, hallucinations, anxiety and agitation.

"It says on the packaging that the amounts of THC are not regulated, not manufactured under oversight in health and safety by the Food and Drug Administration or other governing bodies," Epperly said.

But the sheriff's biggest concern is the youngsters in Barry County and the surrounding area who might get some of the wacky candy in their trick-or-treat bags this Halloween.

"Parents, teachers, the public; they all need to know about this and be aware this stuff is out there," Epperly said. "This could be a great risk to kids.

"Everyone knows that marijuana is a gateway drug that leads to more serious drug use," he continued. "In the wrong hands, we could face some major problems."

Epperly said he doesn't know if the drugs were shipped to the individual for personal use or not.

"More than likely, the person planned to break the packages down into smaller units and re-sell them," he said. "We do know the residence the package was shipped to is vacant, and we have not located the subject who was supposed to receive it."

Cost of one package of lemon drops was nearly $16. Other products weren't priced, but all had past-due expiration dates, which would make the products ineligible for sale in Colorado.

The package came with no return address and only had the recipient's nickname on the outside of the shipping box.

"There is a potential for these types of things to start coming into Missouri from states where marijuana is legal," Epperly said. "But just because it's legal in California and Colorado does not make it legal in Missouri. Officers and delivery companies, including the United States Post Office, will be looking for suspicious packages, especially those addressed to vacant lots or empty houses.

"We urge parents to check the packaging on their children's Halloween candy carefully," Epperly said. "We don't want this stuff getting into the hands of our children and grandchildren."

Epperly also urges parents to consider the safer Halloween venue alternatives, such as Trunk or Treat events hosted by local churches and civic groups, rather than door-to-door trick-or-treating.

"As sheriff, it is my duty to the public to let them know these types of items are finding their way into the area," Epperly said. "I would like to say that this is the end of it, but it's probably not."

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