Illegal cannabis chips apparently destined for California market hospitalize two in Oklahoma


The edibles were made to look like products from legal food brands that do not contain any THC.

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The Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority (OMMA) is investigating the source of cannabis edibles apparently made in California that resulted in the hospitalization of at least two people in Oklahoma over the last week.

“Two individuals became ill from eating THC chip products that appear to have been packaged for the California medical marijuana market,” Mark Woodward, a spokesperson for the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics (OBN), notes in a Facebook post.

The OBN and the OMMA — whose website is the official site for application submission and information for patients, caregivers, dispensaries, growers, processors and physicians — will jointly explore exactly how the edibles got into the state, the statement reports.

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“For a child or even an adult, these could easily be mistaken for retail store chips,” Woodward points out. The only differences are the very small THC and what looks somewhat like the California Medical Marijuana logos “on the bottom corners,” he adds.

In Oklahoma, state law requires that THC edible products sold in dispensaries be made in the state and be tested to meet state standards.

In California, packaging and labeling rules require two separate panels on products, according to Indica Online. The main panel includes details such as the product’s name or identification number, the official state THC symbol and the amount of THC and CBD per serving, measured in milligrams per package; and the informational panel provides such details as the licensed manufacturer’s name and the government warning in bold print.

Although no final determination has yet been made, the chips displayed on the OBN Facebook post look like illegal weed edibles that mimic the look of legal, non-cannabis confections. The Nerds brand has also been a frequent target of illegal products made to look like the real (and legal) thing in a number of countries around the world.

In Canada, legal edibles cannot have packaging that looks like non-weed products and cannot be appealing to youth. /
In Canada, legal edibles cannot have packaging that looks like non-weed products and cannot be appealing to youth. / Photo by diego_cervo / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Earlier this month in Toronto, a child who consumed an edible from a package of “Buzzy Peaches” — purposely packaged to look like Maynards Fuzzy Peach — had to be treated in hospital before later being released.

In Canada, legal edibles cannot have packaging that looks like non-weed products and cannot be appealing to youth. Containers must be a single uniform colour, be child-resistant and have security features, cannot contain a quantity of THC exceeding 10 mg and must display the standardized cannabis symbol for products containing THC.

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A few months ago, the RCMP discovered THC chips as part of a larger seizure that also included bulk cannabis butter and THC gummies. And earlier this month in Florida’s Charlotte and Sarasota counties, police discovered edibles packaging that looked like Cheetos, Skittles and Nerds.

The Oklahoma incidents are certainly not the first times people have been hospitalized after consuming weed edibles. /
The Oklahoma incidents are certainly not the first times people have been hospitalized after consuming weed edibles. / Photo by SunMedia

A spokesperson for FritoLay, which makes Cheetos, confirmed that the company does not manufacture any products containing THC, reports the Herald-Tribune. Sometimes, people buy packaging online and then fill it with an illegal product, according to the paper.

The Oklahoma incidents are certainly not the first times’ people have been hospitalized after consuming weed edibles, whether those were legal or illegal.

Last December in New Jersey, two people were charged with child endangerment following an incident in which a three-year-old boy had to be hospitalized after eating cannabis edibles that had been left out in his home. And a one-year-old boy in Cleveland, Ohio had to be taken to hospital by ambulance after somehow ingesting Tylenol and cannabis.

Concerns over children consuming edibles were heightened enough that Health Canada issued an advisory for parents to store the products out of the reach of children.

This month in Florida, police discovered edibles packaging that looked like Cheetos, Skittles and Nerds. /
This month in Florida, police discovered edibles packaging that looked like Cheetos, Skittles and Nerds. / Photo by Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office, Facebook

In the Facebook post, OBN director Donnie Anderson points out that thousands of medical marijuana businesses in Oklahoma “work very hard to follow the state laws and industry standards to make sure they are providing a safe product.”

The OBN and the OMMA “are committed to aggressively going after bad actors who bring in out-of-state marijuana products, jeopardize public safety and think Oklahoma’s laws don’t apply to them,” Anderson says.

While medical marijuana has been legal in Oklahoma since July of 2019, recreational cannabis is not. According to FindLaw, “if marijuana is illegal in a particular state, the transportation of the drug will also be illegal in that state.”

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