Posts tagged ‘saving kids from dangerous drugs act’

Pot Chocolate and the Saving Kids from Dangerous Drugs Act

These candies look vaguely familiar, right?

That’s what Hershey Chocolate thought too. So in 2007 they filed a suit for trademark infringement against the manufacturer, Kenneth Affolter, and his company Beyond Bomb. Affolter was already in prison for conspiracy to manufacture and distribute marijuana plants. The Hershey rip offs were technically legal under California law. But Hershey understandably was disturbed. Imitation being, in this case, not exactly the kind of flattery they were looking for.

Beyond Bomb has a special market niche: creating marijuana-laced products for the pseudo-legal “medical marijuana” market in California. I say “pseudo-legal” because although California law allows for the sale of marijuana for medical purposes, the Feds still consider it illegal.

But in the grey area of California’s standards, a whole industry has sprung up. It isn’t just baggies and pipes. It’s brownies, cookies, ice cream, peanut butter, and granola bars. And yes, lollipops and candy bars, all laced with cannabis.

Beyond Bomb quickly withdrew these candy bars after Hershey got on their case. But they made a reappearance last week in the passage of S.258, the Saving Kids from Dangerous Drugs Act that was passed in the Senate. When the bill was first crafted in 2007, the big scare was candy meth. Candy meth turns out to have been mostly a fantasy, so keeping hope alive for this bill needed new culprits. Enter the medical marijuana business.

When this bill passed the Senate last week, Senator Feinstein’s office refered explicitly to the marijuana candy products that the bill would penalize, products with names like Rasta Reese’s, 3 Rastateers and Munchy Way. Pot brownies are on the suspect list as well. While college students fear the worst, the Senator’s office has reassured them that the penalties only apply to anyone selling these drug-laced candies to kids under 18.

So here’s the problem: who was selling 3 Rastateers and Munchy Way bars to kids under 18? It’s not like dealers package these up and roam the school yards. These were being sold in heavily regulated, very carefully run medical dispensaries. I’m not saying all the dispensing was strictly “medical,” but what the pot industry in California is trying very hard to do is be a normal business, not to be drug dealers. Earlier this year the patent office briefly approved a trademark category for marijuana related products; entrepreneurs rushed in to grab the best trademark names before the higher ups realized that, insofar as pot is still illegal, it didn’t look good for a federal agency like USPTO to be encouraging things with trademark protections.

And I think this why the Saving Kids from Dangerous Drugs Act finally went through this year. The development of the pot business is drawing a lot of attention. The Act is a way of putting pressure on the marijuana advocates and doing everything possible to prevent that business from normalizing. Kids are just an excuse, a smokescreen. The California experiment suggests that “medical marijuana” is a pretty flexible category. Those who would like to keep pot on the illegal side of psychoactive substances get a lot farther with “save the children” than with “save the stoners.”

This whole episode reminds me of the dust-up over Camel Orbs earlier this year, see my comments on Tocacco Candy.

See also my post on the background of this bill and the “candy meth” myth.

August 6, 2010 at 10:41 am 4 comments

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.

August 4, 2010 at 11:45 am 1 comment


Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure

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Candy in American Culture What is it about candy? Here you'll find the forgotten, the strange, the curious, the surprising. Our candy story, one post at a time.

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