Marijuana-laced candies, already worrying authorities in the United States, now are causing concerns north of the border.
RCMP in Alberta busted an Edmonton man last month after detecting the strong odour of pot during a routine traffic stop on Highway 16, west of the city.
They turned up enough weed to make about 25,000 joints, the Edmonton Sun reported. But they also discovered more than a pound of candies containing THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.
The accused, who faces a number of drug charges, admitted he'd bought the sweets in Vancouver, the Sun said.
The Mounties said the candies are produced by using chemicals to extract the THC from marijuana. The concentrated dose can be more potent than weed that's smoked, police said.
“Consumers have no way of knowing the percentage of THC or the potency of these candies,” RCMP drug expert Sgt. Lorne Adamitz said in a news release.
Police are worried children will get their hands on the drug-laced sweets and end up in hospital.
“Candies are created to attract a broader customer base, which includes youth, but attractive, brightly-coloured candy brings in a whole new set of risk factors for the exposure of children and toddlers to marijuana," Adamitz said.
Sgt. Jamie Johnston said unconventional forms of marijuana, like these candies, could become more common in Canada because pot's been legalized in Washington and Colorado. The readily-available products could be bought there and smuggled into the country.
Medicinal marijuana often comes in edible forms, but referendums in the two U.S. states legalizing recreational sales has brought many of the non-smoking alternatives into the open.
The pot retailer stocks marijuana-infused drinks, candies, chocolate truffles and other snacks. They're seen as a non-threatening way to consume marijuana for older customers and tourists staying in smoke-free hotels, the Times said.
But the trend alarms parents, educators and some doctors, who say they're increasingly used by teens who don't want to be caught smoking a joint and by children who can't tell the difference between regular candies and the drug-laced kind, the Times said.
States that allow recreational or medical marijuana have regulations requiring the products to be put in child-resistant packages that aren't designed to appeal to kids.
But critics say the rules aren't strict enough, especially considering snack servings can contain 10 times as much THC as in a joint, the Times said. They're also seen as an easy entrance to pot use for young people, similar to wine coolers for alcohol and flavoured cigarettes for tobacco, the Times said.
“They’re attractive to kids; they’re easily disguised,” Gina Carbone of Smart Colorado, which opposes legalization, told the Times. “They’re not being regulated properly at all to protect kids.”
A survey documented 14 cases of children taken to Denver's children's hospital for treatment of accidental marijuana consumption between 2009 and 2011, the Times reported.
Pot candies are turning up regularly in busts by American police, such as the Tennessee man caught with 10 pounds of the stuff last month, according to the Columbia Daily Herald, and a Montana man who pleaded guilty to drug charges last December after his daughter handed out marijuana candies on her school bus, The Associated Press reported.
A Colorado man was arrested by police in Nebraska two years ago with 36 pounds of pot candies in the trunk of his car, the Huffington Post reported.
Like the Alberta case, the man was initially pulled over by state troopers in a highway traffic stop but police became suspicious after he balked at a search of his vehicle. A drug-sniffing dog was brought in and confirmed the presence of hashish as well as the drug-laced candies.