Dealers create new candy drug trend in Austin to disguise illegal activity

Local drug dealers are taking tips from legal marijuana sellers. They're using hash oil to create products you'd find on the candy aisles in convenience stores. It's a way to disguise the illegal activity from officers.

Recently, homemade products have shown up in Austin.

"They're making candy and wrapping it in cellophane as a way to package it so they can sell it to somebody on the street or people that are buying from them," said Lt. Pat Connor.

APD narcotics officers confiscated 15 pounds of THC suckers from a home in Manchaca in January.

Officers arrested Justin Webster for possession.

In April, officers executed a search warrant at a Southeast Austin apartment complex and found marijuana products inside. They were professionally packaged and transported from a state where marijuana is legal to be sold locally.

As a father, Lt. Pat Connor immediately thinks of the risk to children.

"They could pick it up and think it's a piece of candy and try and eat it which is going to expose the child to an unknown level of THC," said Connor.

But there is just as much of a health threat to adults.

"You have no idea how they made it, what they made it with or the concentration or did they only put THC in it or did they add some other drug or narcotic that you're totally unaware of," said Connor. "You're placing your own physical well-being in the hands of somebody that made a drug in their kitchen."

Connor says the danger starts with the THC extraction process.

"They're using butane to extract the THC out of the plant. And then you have the fumes associated with the butane in the lighter fluid that settles in the room where they're cooking. Any spark, lighter, cigarette, anything could set that off and cause a large explosion," said Connor.

Connor points to an apartment explosion that happened in South Austin in 2013. Arson investigators say a couple was using a honey oil extractor when they developed a leak. It's believed the dishwasher sparked the explosion.

"It blew walls off of the foundation," he said.

Officers recently busted a hash oil operation in this home off Slaughter Lane. A daycare is across the street. Another is point-two miles away as well as an elementary school.

"Potentially if there was an explosion related to that there could've been children involved," said Connor.

So what is the draw if there are so many risks?

"It's pretty much odorless, so you're not going to have somebody could be eating a piece of candy sitting next to you in a movie theater and you don't know they're essentially smoking or ingesting marijuana," said Connor.

It's a trend in states where marijuana is legal. Here in Texas, you can go to jail for quenching your sweet tooth. Once you do anything that changes or alters the marijuana, it's an automatic felony regardless of weight. Charges start at a 3rd degree felony and go up from there.

The owner of the bag of suckers will be hit with a first degree felony.

Still, Connor says the treats are growing in popularity so he's alerting his officers and those in surrounding departments to keep an eye out.

"I think we're going to continue to see an increase in it," said Connor.