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How Drug Dealers Target Our Kids

Ecstasy 'Cartoon' Bills
  |  'Strawberry Quick' Meth  |  'Marijuana Candy Factories'


Without drug users, drug dealers would go out of business. Because they need there to be a demand for the illegal drugs they produce and traffic, dealers are continually looking to attract more "customers" -- to get more people "hooked on their junk."

"And among drug dealers there are no qualms about target-marketing kids," says COMBAT Assistant Director of Operations Vince Ortega, a 30-year veteran of the Kansas City, Missouri Police Department. "They're trying to create the next generation of addicts -- their new customers -- by creating 'products' made to appeal specifically to children."

Here are just three examples: Ecstasy pills shaped like cartoon characters, methamphetamine packaged like candy and marijuana-laced treats.

Ecstasy pills made to look like children's chewable vitamins

Ecstasy 'Cartoon' Pills

Law enforcement officials across the nation are more and more frequently seizing Ecstasy pills obviously intended to grab a child's attention. The pills strongly resemble children's chewable vitamins. They come in various shapes, bright colors and often depict popular cartoon characters, such as Homer or Bart Simpson and the Smurfs.

"The goal is pretty obvious: to entice a kid to try the drug, thinking it's something harmless, even something fun," says Ortega, a former supervisor of the KCPD Drug Enforcement Unit.

The Federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) began raising awareness about Ecstasy tablets shaped like Snoopy and Bart Simpson in a June 2009 bulletin issued to law enforcement agencies across the nation. A month later, a U.S. Border Patrol dog discovered more than 46 pounds of the pills stuffed in a suitcase on a bus in Harlingen, Texas.

How many pills would that have been? Consider this: Approximately 200 ecstasy pills, seized in another Texas arrest, tipped the scales at around 63 grams -- about one-tenth of a pound.

Anyone taking Ecstasy could suffer seizures and/or a spike in blood pressure or heart rate -- any of which could prove fatal.

'Strawberry Quick'

It looks like Pop Rocks, the candy that fizzes in your mouth as it crackles and pops. But "Strawberry Quick" poses a risk far greater than a sugary treat.

Strawberry Quick

Strawberry Quick is a new twist on an old drug, methamphetamine. Meth makers are trying to trick children into trying their highly addictive poison by adding to it strawberry flavoring and red food coloring -- then, in some instances, even packaging the drug as if it were common candy.

"Strawberry Quick first started showing up in California at the start of 2010, but it has quickly spread," Ortega points out. "Police have since found the drug throughout most of the country, including here in Missouri."

Strawberry Quick meth has no connection to Pop Rocks or strawberry-flavored Nestle Nesquick powder.

"Unfortunately, these dealers are trying to make their meth strongly resemble products kids know and use," adds Ortega. "This is pretty despicable because these tactics demonstrate the dealers aren't just going after teens, but also little kids."

Seized from a marijuana candy factory
'Marijuana Candy Factories'

In recent years, Federal agents and other law officers have been seeking to shut down so-called "marijuana candy factories" that create "enhanced" snacks supposedly for medical marijuana users. In some raids, they have confiscated thousands of marijuana-laced candies and soft drinks, including candy bars, cookies, marshmallow pies, ice cream, peanut butter, jelly and "Rice Krispy Treats."

"Some of these factories may think of themselves as legitimate," says Ortega, "but when you look at their 'line of products' you can see there's some serious marketing to children being done." 


With drug dealers targeting younger and younger kids, parents should not put off having a talk with their children about the methods being used to trick them into using illicit drugs.

"The best advice we can give parents is to talk to your kids," says COMBAT Assistant Director of Operations Vince Ortega. "Reinforce in them the old adage: Never take candy or anything else from a stranger. Be sure that they know not to take medicine from anyone other than you."

Parents should be specific when talking to their children, warning about the tactics drug dealers are using -- such as Ecstasy pills shaped like vitamins or drugs packaged to resemble candy.

Parents should also observe their children closely, looking for any changes in their behavior.

Young Dealers 

Compounding the challenge to parents is that drug dealers will often recruit children to sell or give drugs to other kids.

"In a few rare instances, police will uncover a drug ring that was started by and is being run by teenagers," Ortega stresses. "A kid's drug dealer can possibly be another kid."




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