Thousands of candy-like gummies laced with THC are showing up in Minnesota and bringing the state into the latest controversy over marijuana products that are legal in some states but not in others.
The arrest of Austin J. Hagen, 23, of Lakeville, was the second last week in the south metro suburb involving a large amount of gummies containing THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the active ingredient in marijuana.
“It is alarming to find such large quantities of these THC-laced gummy bears apparently heading for distribution in the Twin Cities area,” County Attorney Jim Backstrom said Tuesday. “These are very dangerous and can easily be found and ingested by children. The chance of accidental overdose … is also very high.”
While investigators continued searching for the source of the gummies, Backstrom said, “Minnesota law enforcement has noticed an increase in the past year in candy-like edibles … laced with THC.”
He said the products are making their way from states where marijuana and marijuana edibles are legal.
“I am advised that edible THC-laced gummies like this have a street value of $400-500 per pound,” the county attorney said.
In Colorado, where recreational marijuana was legalized in 2012, a law went on the books last fall that outlawed gummie marijuana edibles shaped like animals, humans, fruit or cartoon characters.
A study by the Journal of the American Medical Association found a 34 percent increase in children being hospitalized in Colorado for accidental cannabis ingestion between 2009 to 2015.
Backstrom said it was a coincidence that these two cases popped up in Lakeville a few days apart. The two defendants have no connection to each other, he said.
Hagen was charged Monday in Dakota County District Court with two felony drug counts after his arrest Friday. He posted bail and was released from jail ahead of a March 15 court appearance.
According to the charges, a police officer stopped Hagen for an equipment violation and caught a whiff of marijuana coming from the vehicle. The officer’s search turned up eight plastic bins containing more than 99 pounds of gummies laced with concentrated THC. Backstrom estimated the street value of Hagen’s haul at $40,000 to $50,000.
“There appeared to [be] several thousand gummies in each container,” the complaint read.
A telephone message was left Tuesday with Hagen’s attorney seeking a response to the charges.
In the previous arrest in Lakeville, 28-year-old Brian D. Hiltner was pulled over by law enforcement last Wednesday near a home that officers were about to search. In the vehicle, they seized 14 gallon-sized plastic bags holding gummies containing THC, according to the criminal complaint. Also in the vehicle were nine sealed bags of marijuana.
Inside Hiltner’s home were 183 sealed bags of marijuana, more THC-laced gummies, THC in wax form, drug paraphernalia and about $26,000 in a cardboard box, the complaint continued.
Hiltner was jailed, posted bail and has a Feb. 22 court date on a first-degree drug-dealing charge. Court records show no attorney representing him. A telephone message was left for him Tuesday seeking his reaction to the allegations.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482