Several children at a Florida middle school overdosed on THC-laced gummies after a 12-year-old student handed them out in class, authorities said.
Polk County Sheriff’s Office officials said the boy somehow acquired a package of gummies containing 100 mg of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main mind-altering ingredient in cannabis, and gave it to six other seventh-graders during gym class at Mulberry Middle School on Thursday.
At least five of the students were transported to a hospital after experiencing stomach pain, dizziness and nausea, and Sheriff Grady Judd said one of them had “all but passed out.”
The child who handed out the gummies at school now faces seven felony charges for possessing and distributing marijuana.
Ten states and D.C. have legalized the recreational use of marijuana for adults — but not in Florida, and never for children.
“We’re fortunate in that the children are all going to make a great recovery; they’re going to be all right,” Judd told reporters during a news conference. “There’s no long-term injury or illness here as we understand, but obviously we’re concerned.
“We’re concerned as to one, how did a 12-year-old ever come to be in possession of this drug? . . . And two, why did he offer it to these six kids?”
In Florida, medical marijuana is legal with a prescription, but the drug remains illegal in other forms.
Judd, the sheriff, said that the edibles that sickened the Mulberry Middle School students are sold online and come in a gummy brick that is supposed to be torn into 10 adult doses in states where the product is legal. Almost the entire package was divided among the six children, he said.
Authorities said at least five of the children consumed the gummies, and it is believed that the sixth child did as well.
As The Washington Post’s Kristine Phillips has reported, edibles, or food products laced with cannabis extract, have become a popular way to sell marijuana, and many are sold online, though interstate transport is illegal.
In Colorado, for example, edibles accounted for 45 percent of all cannabis sales, according to a paper published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Edibles come in different forms, such as candies, gummies, chocolates, baked goods and beverages. They are largely considered a safer way to consume marijuana because they do not pose the harmful risks of smoking, though little research is available on how effective edibles are compared with other methods of ingestion. Edible products also account for majority of hospital visits, likely because users who do not realize the delayed effects consume higher-than-recommended amounts, the paper says.
The boy who handed out the gummies in Florida told investigators at least two different stories about how he got them, but said he did not eat any, the sheriff said.
It’s unclear whether he understood that the gummies contained THC, but authorities pointed out that ignorance is not a defense against a crime.
The boy will be charged with one count of possession of marijuana resin and six counts of distribution of marijuana within 1,000 feet of a school — all felonies — as well as one misdemeanor count possession of paraphernalia, authorities said. When asked whether the other six children could also face charges, Judd said no, stating that “the other kids have eaten the evidence, so to speak.”
The sheriff said that the other children will be dealt with by their parents and the school system.
Authorities said that the 12-year-old’s parents are cooperating and that there is no indication that they played a role in the incident. But, the sheriff said, the investigation is ongoing.
During the news conference Thursday, Polk County Schools Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd urged parents to monitor their children’s activities online, including what they are buying, and to talk to their children about illegal drugs.
“We want to make sure that everyone is safe when they come to school each and every day,” the superintendent said.