JACKSONVILLE, Fla — Tens of thousands of intoxicating products packaged in kid-friendly ways are off the shelves thanks to a recent effort led by the Florida Department of Agriculture.
The operation, codenamed “Kandy Krush” targeted hemp products containing the legal, but intoxicating, chemical THC Delta-8 – a cousin of the intoxicating chemical in marijuana, THC Delta-9.
“They look like skittle packages, gummy bears,” said Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Wilton Simpson.
The operation resulted in the removal of nearly 70,000 Delta-8 products across the state this week.
Simpson explained it marks the first major round of inspections since state lawmakers approved new packaging restrictions for Delta-8 products earlier this year.
Those restrictions prohibit hemp products intended for human consumption from being packaged in ways that are attractive to children.
“We have heard many cases around the state where children would get into these thinking their candy,” said Simpson.
Mike McCormick with the Florida Poison Information Center told Action News Jax the products aren’t well regulated, and when kids consume them the results can be detrimental.
“We see hallucinations, vomiting tremors, anxiety, dizziness, confusion, loss of consciousness,” said McCormick.
Calls to poison control have been increasing, with 109 statewide and 17 here in Northeast Florida in the first half of 2023 alone.
The current pace puts the state on track to see a 25 percent increase in Delta-8-related incidents compared to last year.
McCormick pointed out that data shows nearly half of Delta-8 Poison Control calls involve children.
“It becomes very dangerous for a child when they take too many of these,” said McCormick.
As a result of Operation Kandy Krush, seven Northeast Florida businesses were issued a grand total of 79 stop-sale orders.
At 20, a One Stop convenience store in St. Augustine was cited for the most violations in the region.
Action News Jax paid the store a visit Friday.
The clerk told us he was unaware the products had been banned and he’d removed them from the store’s shelves after he was visited by the Department of Agriculture’s inspectors.
“When I know, I stopped selling it. You can go take a look,” the clerk told Action News Jax reporter Jake Stofan.
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Upon a review of the products in the store, it was clear the clerk was telling the truth.
Simpson said it’s his hope other sellers across the state are receiving the same message, and if not, he warned this is your notice an inspector will be visiting soon.
“If I were in that business, know that they’re coming soon. This ain’t months out, this is days and weeks out,” said Simpson.
The Department of Agriculture and Poison Control both stressed the importance of parents getting informed about Delta-8, especially if they use the products themselves.
Their message: Treat the products the same way would your medicine, and lock them up safely out of children’s reach