Candy That Sickened 19 People at San Francisco Birthday Party Contained Marijuana

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 (San Francisco Department of Health)

A San Francisco birthday party took an upsetting turn on Saturday when guests began feeling ill after consuming orange candy gummy rings that were later found to contain edible marijuana.

The candy sickened 19  people who unknowingly ate the marijuana-laced candy at a quinceañera party.  They were all taken to area hospitals after experiencing symptoms including rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, dilated pupils, dizziness, light-headedness, nausea, lethargy and confusion, which can occur with edible marijuana consumption, San Francisco Department of Public Health officials said.

Thirteen of the patients were aged 18 or younger, ranging in age from 6 to 18, the health department said.

Lab results on the orange-colored gummy ring candies along with lab work from 12 of the hospitalized patients showed positive findings for THC, (tetrahydrocannabinol), the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, health department officials said.

A public health official called the incident "a strong warning about the dangers of edibles."

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Tomas Aragon, Health Officer for the City and County of San Francisco, said in a written statement that edibles can be "very potent and hard to control dosage in the best circumstances."

“A situation like this, where they were consumed by unsuspecting people, and many children, is greatly concerning.” Aragon said.

Public health advocates said the incident raised questions about how to safely legalize marijuana.

"The poisoning  of a large group is horrifying but not surprising," said Larry Cohen, executive director of the Prevention Institute, an Oakland-based public health nonprofit.

"While there is talk about legalizing marijuana it should not imply somehow that it is not a dangerous substance that always needs to be approached with care. Making marijuana edible and in some cases delicious is going to increase the amount that is consumed and is particularly of danger to kids -- especially in cases where it is packaged like children’s candy."

The party was catered by a company in Oakland. The Alameda County Department of Public Health will also investigate the situation.

“The question remains, where did the candies come from?” said Aragon. “We are working with the catering company and our colleagues in Alameda to find out.”

This post has been updated.