WEST CHESTER More than 40 pounds of marijuana-laced hard candy - in every color of the rainbow and in sizes ranging from a marble to a small orange - was seized last week from a West Chester University apartment, prosecutors said.
The candy, found wrapped in plastic bags for distribution, were intended for college students, not children, Chester County Deputy District Attorney Patrick Carmody said Monday. He said the timing of the bust was likely a coincidence but still was a concern considering its proximity to Halloween.
"With Halloween just around the corner, the last thing we want to see is drug-laced candy hitting the streets," Carmody said in a statement.
The candy was seized from an apartment on South Campus, along South New Street, shortly after university police pulled over a group of students in a car that smelled of marijuana, according to the statement.
Carmody said the police have identified one 24-year-old male suspect, but that person has not been arrested pending lab results on the candy. The student, who transferred to the school this semester, has been placed on interim suspension and banned from entering campus, according to university spokeswoman Pam Sheridan. She said a final decision about his status will be made after any criminal case runs its course.
Along with the candy, the police seized an Everclear bottle filled with liquid THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, Carmody said.
He said police are still investigating whether the candy was made on campus. The police believe the student was selling the finished product at concerts by giving out samples and then offering bags to interested buyers, Carmody said.
Sheridan said there has not been a drug bust of this size at the campus in her seven years working there. And she said she could not recall drug-laced candy being found there before.
"We have read about people doing this with candy in the past," Carmody said. "But it's the first time we've had it in West Chester."
Police said no other students who live in the apartment where the drugs were found were facing disciplinary action at this time.
Similar sweets have been found recently in at least one other Philadelphia-area community - and in the hands of a younger user.
Upper Merion Detective Andrew Rathfon said that in early January, a mother brought a piece of candy she had taken from her teenage son to the Police Department because she suspected it was laced.
The candy tested positive for THC, he said.
Rathfon said he had not seen laced candy before and has not run across it since then.
"It's something that law enforcement doesn't see that often. If we're that unfamiliar with it, the parents are definitely unfamiliar with it. It's obviously a way that children can conceal it," he said.
Several students walking through the South Campus apartment complex where the candy was found said Monday that the seizure surprised them because drug use is not pervasive there.
"I'm a junior. Since I got here, that's the most bizarre thing I've heard of," said 19-year-old Mike Williams of Philadelphia.
His cousin, 20-year-old Dontae Williams, also said the bust was unexpected because of the strong police presence in the area, which he thought would dissuade students from keeping large quantities of drugs in their buildings.
"That's an undercover cop right there," he said, pointing across a patch of grass towards a white car parked in the nearest lot. "He's always around. He lives there."