According to the Richland County Sheriff, two dozen attendances to an Ohio music festival were hospitalized after they experienced episodes of a drug overdose.

On Saturday was the last day of the 2016 Everyone Stands Together Fest (EST). The event targeted at everyone 18 and over.  It started on Friday as a weekend-long event. That same Saturday, at night, rapper Machine Gun Kelly —the headliner act— played for an audience of approximately 2700 people, in a concert titled “The Last Weekend on Earth”.

The third edition of the EST Fest was not all music and party. Image credit: Youtube

The overdoses

Unfortunately, the fun at the festival was cut short, at least for the twenty-four patrons who had to be hospitalized because of a severe reaction to drug-laced candy.

Fortunately, everyone was fine after being treated at Ohio Health Mansfield Hospital. The story goes that someone, between 10 and 11 a.m. began distributing packets of colorful candy, labeled as “Prescribed Medibles” and “Nerd Bites”, referencing commercial brands.

However, this was no typical candy: they contained ultra-potent synthetic marijuana. One or two pieces would be enough to get someone high, but some of the hospitalized patrons were eating whole bags, or about 20 pieces.

The paramedics initially believed they were dealing with an opiate overdose, but after a failed initial treatment with Narcan (which counteracts opioids overdoses) and testing the candies, it was revealed that these had a very high dosage of THC.

This was the highest concentration of THC the crime lab director of the Mansfield Police Department, Tony Tambasco, had seen in his lab, said Richland County Sheriff’s Maj. Joe Masi.

THC stands for Tetrahydrocannabinol, and it’s the main psychoactive ingredient of cannabis — which manifests as feelings of euphoria.

These symptoms point to the candies being laced with a synthetic cannabinoid — which can be anywhere from twice to a hundred times more potent than natural THC; the unpredictability comes from the unknown chemical composition of the drugs.

However, Lt. Joe Petrycki, commander of METRICH  regional drug task force, says that the use of the word “overdose” is too strong since the victims didn’t lose consciousness. They only felt tired, among other unusual symptoms.

So far, an arrest has been made

At least one person connected to the incident has been arrested: Matthew L. Gross, charged with drug trafficking. He’s 28 and comes from Ypsilanti, Michigan.

There were plenty of conflicting reports about who was distributing the packets; there were also conflicts regarding the physical appearance of the culprit, with the questioned seemingly only agreeing in that the John Doe had a backpack, numerous tattoos and was wearing a black T-shirt and a gray baseball cap.

As cars entered the property, they were inspected by festival personnel.

However, the candies went undetected; Richland County Sheriff Capt. Donald Zehner mentions that it’s likely the festival staff didn’t know what they were and that they also were more preoccupied looking for things such as guns and knives; not candy.

In spite of the incident, there were no intentions of canceling the festival, as no other issues popped up before or since.

Sources: CNN