The Candy Meth Myth: Kids and Candy Drugs
Last Thursday (July 29) the Senate just said NO to drug dealers disguising their wares as candy to appeal to the kiddie market, passing S.258 by unanimous consent. S.258 is also known as the Saving Kids From Dangerous Drugs Act, originally proposed by Senator Dianne Feinstein of California.
This bill has been around the block a few times already. It had been proposed in the 2007, 2008, and 2009 legislative sessions as well. The Saving Kids From Dangerous Drugs Act tends to rise and fall on the rumors that kids are buying drugs disguised as candy. It was first drafted in response to the sudden appearance of a street drug called Strawberry Kwik: methamphetamine flavored with strawberry. The bill enhances regular drug dealing penalties for anyone who:
manufactures, creates, distributes, or possesses with intent to distribute a controlled substance that is flavored, colored, packaged or otherwise altered in a way that is designed to make it more appealing to a person under 21 years of age, or who attempts or conspires to do so.
One of the reasons this bill never got anywhere before now is because “candy-flavored meth” that was the major impetus for the original bill doesn’t actually exist.
Around 2007, alarming reports of a concotion with the street name “Strawberry Quik” suggested that drug dealers, seeking new marketing opportunities, were headed for the swing-set set. Regular methamphetamine is white or brownish and bitter. You can smoke it or snort it, but it won’t taste very good. In a widely circulated USA Today expose, a DEA spokesperson claimed that candy flavored meth crystals were available in at least eight states, and that in addition to the infamous strawberry, meth could be enjoyed in chocolate, cola, and other soda flavors, and even a red meth that was being marketed as “a powdered form of an energy drink.” (“DEA: Flavored Meth Use on the Rise,” 3/25/2007, USA Today)
A bulletin issued by the Nevada Department of Public Safety, who had first broke the story of strawberry meth in January 2007, explained: “Strawberry Quick,” the bulletin said, “is popular among new users who snort it because the flavoring can cut down on the taste. Teenagers who have been taught meth is bad may see this flavored version as less harmful. ‘Strawberry Quick’ is designed for the younger crowd.” (quoted in USA TODAY article)
But despite all the alarmed reports of candy meth, no one ever produced any of the product. It was like the Loch Ness Monster of illegal drugs, surely out there but always somewhere else. When samples were produced, it turned out that they were colored, but not flavored. Such coloring was, experts explained, a frequent by product of the manufacturing process, although in some cases it appeared colors were added as a sort of “branding” technique. (Bob Curley, 22 June 2007, “Meth Ado About Nothing: Flavored Meth and Cheese Heroin Stories Smack of Fearmongering” JoinTogether.org)
One chemist who had previously run a meth-lab also pointed out that adding sugar candies or drink mixes to meth wouln’t work: “The sugar group would break down the methyl group during cooking, ruining the batch.” (Micah Burns, quoted in Bob Durley, “Does ‘Flavored Meth’ Even Make Sense?” JoinTogether.org 22 June 2007) We assume that meth lab technicians were not, by and large, signing up for candy making classes.
It wasn’t until 2009 that the DEA received a small sample of “translucent crystals and tiny purple specks that had a distinct grape candy-like odor,” described as the “first such submission” of a purportedly candified methamphetamine. But the photo didn’t look like meth cooked up to resemble candy. It looked like crystals of methamphetamine mixed with crunched up grape Lifesavers. To at least one untrained eye (mine), the “candy meth” sample seemed less the devious candy cookery of clever meth marketers, and more likely the work of somebody who had heard from the alarmed news accounts that you could mix candy with meth, and was giving it a try.
In any case, by that time, the DEA was actively distancing itself from the candy meth stories:
“Flavored methamphetamine” (most notably “strawberry meth”) has received extensive and often alarmist coverage in the mass media over the past two years. However, this is the first confirmed sample of “flavored methamphetamine” submitted to a DEA laboratory, and is also the first such report by any laboratory to Microgram. A small number of exhibits with unusual colors have been submitted to the South Central Laboratory (Dallas, Texas) over the past two years; however, none of the latter samples had any noticeable fruit or candy-like odors. “Intelligence Alert: ‘Flavored Methamphetamine’ in Everett, Washington,” DEA Microgram Bulletin Jan. 2009 LINK
So when Saving Kids From Dangerous Drugs was about saving kids from candy meth back in 2007, any body who looked into the matter could figure out pretty quickly that the whole thing was sort of a hoax. Yet here is the bill yet again. What’s with the renewed efforts to put the Saving Kids From Dangerous Drugs Act back on the policy agenda?
It’s not about selling meth disguised as candy to kids. It’s about selling pot legally to grownups. More on that in on Friday.