Two 11-year-old students were sent to the hospital after eating cannabis-infused food and another was arrested for allegedly giving them the edibles at Rossville's Lakeview Middle School last week.
The Catoosa County Sheriff's Office arrested and charged the 11-year-old, whose name was withheld because he's a minor, with one count of possession of a controlled substance and one count of possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute.
In a Sheriff's Office report, deputies allege the 11-year-old ate some cannabis-infused edibles he found at his house and also gave some to two friends at school. One of the friends checked out of school because of illness, and school officials said that student went to the hospital later.
The suspect and other friend were tested by the school nurse at the school's request, and THC was found in the two juveniles' system and their guardians were informed, according to the Sheriff's Office report.
The report also said a blue vape pen without a cartridge was confiscated from the suspect. A vape, or vaporizer, pen is an alternative to smoking, and can be used for consuming either tobacco or cannabis.
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The suspect told a deputy he took the edibles out of his mother's bag thinking it was a cereal bar, according to the report.
One of the friends told deputies they didn't know what they ate and thought it was Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal, the report said.
Later on Wednesday, the 11-year-old suspect was released to his mother with an ankle monitor after being booked at the Catoosa County Courthouse.
Catoosa County Public Schools said two students became sick after eating cannabis-infused food at school and were taken to the hospital. One student was admitted to the hospital, district spokesperson Marissa Brower said by email.
"They were back to school the next day," Brower said in a follow-up phone interview. "It wasn't an overdose or anything -- they just got sick."
Catoosa County Schools Superintendent Chance Nix said in the statement that adults can legally purchase edibles infused with delta-8, 9, 10 or THC, the high-inducing chemical compounds found in cannabis, but they need to be careful with the products.
"The substances are not meant for children, as clearly stated on the package," Nix said. "If you have this substance that is dangerous for children in your home, please secure it in a location that cannot be accessed by children. Students who bring food infused with THC to school will be disciplined."
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There was no public announcement or communication with parents about the incident, which Nix said falls in line with system policy.
"Incidents affecting the school as a whole or a large part of the school would be communicated schoolwide and communitywide," Nix said by email. "Incidents affecting one or a few students are discussed with those students' parents individually. This was an isolated incident with a student bringing an 'edible' to school, and it is not systemic."
Catoosa County Sheriff Gary Sisk said he has concerns about cannabis products, and in February of 2022 his deputies warned multiple stores they may be prosecuted for selling certain products.
After pulling products from the shelves, one Fort Oglethorpe-based store selling cannabis-infused products sued the Sheriff's Office and in August was granted the right to sell the cannabis-infused products.
In his ruling on the case, Catoosa County Superior Court Judge Brian House disagreed with the sheriff on the products' illegality and said some cannabis extracts are legal because they aren't specifically addressed by state law regulating cannabis.
House said the question is best addressed by state legislators.
(READ MORE: Georgia lawmakers aim to take a bite out of retail sales of Delta-8 THC products statewide)
The Sheriff's Office and school did not know where the edibles consumed by the middle schoolers were bought. But in a warning letter to schools last year, Sisk said he took action regarding cannabis-infused products because juveniles in the community "have had adverse reactions" to vapes and other products containing THC.
"There are a lot of THC products on the market that can be detrimental to our children and some adults," Sisk said in a statement about the incident at Lakeview Middle School. "THC levels are ridiculously high in a number of these products. There needs to be better regulation of these products."
Sisk said he thinks the lack of nationwide regulation causes confusion about what is or isn't legal and that makes it easier for young people to acquire cannabis-infused food.
Contact Andrew Wilkins at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6659.