At least 19 people fell so ill they had to be hospitalized Saturday, after consuming candy at a Mission District quinceañera party that authorities believe contained edible cannabis.
According to the San Francisco Fire Department, crews were called to the Women's Building, located at 3543 18th Street between Valencia and Guerrero Streets, at around 10:22 p.m. Saturday after guests at the quinceañera began to get sick, SFFD spokesperson Jonathan Baxter says.
Raul Hernandez, a Women's Building security guard who spoke to ABC 7 says that the first victim to report symptoms was a 61-year-old man.
"I see this gentleman sitting down and I walk over to him and ask him what's going on in Spanish and he says, 'I feel pain.' And I asked the wife, 'what did he eat?' But he responded and he said, 'I ate a candy.'"
Speaking with NBC Bay Area, Hernandez says that after that, "It was just one after another and another...A gentleman was holding his chest. The young lady, she couldn’t talk and was gasping for air."
The victims, Baxter says, experienced symptoms including heart palpitations, shortness of breath, vomiting, a swollen tongue and a rash. A witness told NBC Bay Area that "those who got sick had a foamy-type substance coming from their mouth."
Baxter tells Bay City News that the common denominator between the victims appears to be that they all ate "a gummy candy left out at the party" that "did not have any labels or markings that investigators could use to trace where it came from."
In a text conversation with the Ex, Department of Public Health spokesperson Rachael Kagan said “We are interviewing people who were sickened to learn more about what happened,” and will be "testing food consumed at the party to determine what made people sick."
On Monday morning, the DPH sent a media alert saying that "the candy that sickened 19 people at a Quinceañera in the Mission District on Saturday night is suspected to be edible marijuana."
"Final lab results on the gummy ring candies themselves are not yet available, but the lab work of 12 hospitalized patients was positive for THC, (tetrahydrocannabinol), the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana."
“If these candies are confirmed as edible marijuana, then this event is a strong warning about the dangers of edibles, which can be very potent and hard to control dosage in the best circumstances,” Dr. Tomas Aragon, Health Officer for the City and County of San Francisco, says.
“A situation like this, where they were consumed by unsuspecting people, and many children, is greatly concerning.”
According to the DPH, all of the 19 patients taken to hospitals Saturday night had been discharged by Monday morning. "Of the patients that were evaluated, 10 were male and 9 were female. Thirteen of the patients were 18 or younger, ranging in age from 6 to 18. The patients were taken to several San Francisco hospitals, including Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, UCSF Medical Center and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital, Kaiser Permanente Medical Center, California Pacific Medical Center and St. Luke’s Campus."
The SF office of the California Poison Control Center has been collecting information on patient lab results, according to the DPH, and is working with SF General to test the suspect candies.
"At this time," DPH spokesperson Rachael Kagan says, "we do not know when those results will be available."
The party was catered by a company in Oakland, Kagan says, "and the Alameda County Department of Public Health has been informed and will investigate."
“The question remains, where did the candies come from?” said Aragon. “We are working with the catering company and our colleagues in Alameda to find out.”
"Could this have been a willful act to harm people at this party? We don’t know but we’re investigating that," San Francisco Police Department Sergeant Michael Andraychak told NBC.
"So far, however, we’ve found nothing to indicate that this was an intentional act."
“Anyone who attended the Quinceañera and may have taken some of the gummy rings is urged to discard them immediately,” Aragon says.
“If they are sickened, they should report to the California Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) for advice. If they are feeling severely ill, they should call 911.”