Candy-Flavored Drugs: A Danger to Kids - Sacramento Bee

The Sacramento area has been hit by the latest trend in illicit drugs: candy and fruit flavoring used to market drugs to youngsters.

Reports of flavored cocaine and flavored methamphetamine have sprung up across the country since the beginning of the year. The latest report comes out of Yolo County, where law enforcement recently broke up a local ring selling flavored drugs in Yolo, Sacramento and San Joaquin counties.

Undercover agents purchased flavored cocaine and other drugs from the dealers in West Sacramento and Stockton. Following these buys, narcotics agents confiscated three pounds of strawberry- and coconut-flavored cocaine from a home in Stockton. At least four people were arrested on related charges.

This new trend of candy-flavored drugs is frightening. It's all about hooking young people, and we have to stop the practice before it grows any further.

That's why I introduced legislation, called the "Saving Kids From Dangerous Drugs Act of 2007," to crack down on drug dealers who entice children with candy-flavored drugs.

Across the country, law enforcement officers and drug treatment specialists are encountering dangerous and addictive drugs being colored, packaged and flavored in ways designed to attract children and minors.

Flavored meth and cocaine -- with child-friendly names like Strawberry Quick -- are designed to get teenagers and young adults to try it a few times.

The flavoring is being used to disguise the bitter, chemical taste of methamphetamine. To inexperienced users, the candy flavoring can make the drugs seem less harmful.

But while new techniques may make these drugs taste sweet, what hasn't changed are the potent effects.

Let me give you a frightening example.

One youngster admitted to a drug treatment center in California said he was unaware he had been using methamphetamine. He thought he was using a solidified form of a popular energy drink. But what he was using was much more dangerous: It was candy meth.

We need to send a strong message to the meth cooks and dealers: Don't target our kids.

The legislation I've proposed would increase the federal criminal penalties for anyone who markets candy-flavored drugs to our youth by imposing on them the same enhanced penalties applied to the dealers who distribute drugs to minors.

For a first offense, the maximum penalty would be doubled. For a second offense, it would be tripled. And a mandatory minimum penalty of at least a year in prison would always apply, so anyone who markets candy-flavored drugs to kids can expect real time behind bars.

We need to pass this bill soon because flavored meth and cocaine have already surfaced. The Drug Enforcement Administration reports that candy meth has also spread to Nevada, Washington, Idaho, Texas, New Mexico, Missouri and Minnesota.

And if past experience is a guide, this trend will spread to other states in short order.

In San Francisco, police report that they have arrested teens in possession of chocolate-flavored meth. The Haight-Asbury clinic confirms that chocolate methamphetamine is being sold on the streets.

We need to stop this new trend in its tracks. That's why increasing the federal criminal penalties for drug dealers who target our kids is one step that can be taken right away.

At the same time, we need to continue attacking illicit drug production and use from every angle. We need to reduce demand for drugs by educating key groups about its dangers. We need to find ways to break addiction. And we need more funding for enforcement and prosecution, especially in high activity areas.

I urge parents of teens to be on alert and to take action to prevent their children from being hooked by this new drug marketing ploy. In Washington, I'll continue working to expand our federal drug penalties so that dealers will think twice before altering illegal drugs to target our kids.