Posted: Tuesday, April 25, 2023. 8:21 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: This evening, Assistant Commissioner of Police and Officer Commanding Eastern Division Hilberto Romero says searches are being conducted to find the source of the marijuana-laced candies that sent 29 children and four adults to the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital (KHMH) with suspected marijuana intoxication.
“We immediately dispatched investigators as well as other personnel from the Police Department to conduct searches and find out what was happening. So far, we have recovered several packages of gummies [that] the students claimed they had consumed. Presently, several searches are being conducted within Belize City and we have recovered several packages and the investigation continues at this time,” ACP Romero said, adding that several persons have been detained, some with the laced sweet treats in their possession.
Samples have been taken to the Forensic Science Service Laboratory for testing, which has since confirmed the presence of marijuana. ACP Romero issued this warning: “[There is] concern that it was distributed in a wide area within Belize City, and so we are advising the public that if they come across any of these gummies, not to consume it, and to call us so that we can retrieve them so that they can be tested.”
The sickened individuals, most from St Luke Methodist School, are in stable condition but according to ACP Romero need time to recover and give their statements. There is a report that one woman took home several bags of the candies as a gift, heightening concern that the tainted candies may be more widely spread than originally thought. The detained individuals are cooperating for the most part and charges will depend on the final status of the investigation. Bio-terrorism has not been ruled out, as well as the possibility that the candies were stolen; in either event, the goods are illegal and should not be sold.
An official Government statement has since confirmed that Karl Heusner is operating under Mass Casualty Code following the admissions at the Accident and Emergency Unit.
The children are between the ages of five and 15 years, while the adults’ ages were not given.
Assisting in the investigation is the Karl Heusner, Central Health Region, and National Drug Abuse Control Council (NDACC). The Ministry of Health and Wellness dispatched public health inspectors and NDACC case officers to St Luke and found no other children sickened.
Symptoms of marijuana intoxication include vomiting, abdominal pain, dehydration, and profuse sweating; if anyone presents these symptoms, they should visit their nearest health facility.
Initial information is that the treats were purchased from two individuals, who are now in police custody along with some recovered items. During their interviews, the suspects claimed that the treats were purchased from another source. The Commissioner of Police has instructed that a thorough investigation be conducted to identify the primary source of the product. Prime Minister John Briceño personally reiterates that “All efforts will be taken to ensure that our children are protected and where this matter is concerned, we will ensure that justice is served.”
Late reports suggest that the treats were allegedly recognized as items confiscated by police that were subsequently dumped at the garbage dump near Fabers’ Road and then extracted by dump site pickers. Instead of the items being kept as exhibits, they were ordered thrown out allegedly because the would-be exhibits were not properly documented. Police searches have been narrowed to a property in the North Side of Belize City and investigation continues as to how the items made their way to students and how widely they have been distributed.
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