By Ann Needle
After an incident involving Nashoba Regional High School prom-goers, three juveniles—including a Stow resident — face criminal charges for drug distribution. And, the high school’s three towns are now on alert over a dangerous drug making its way into the community.
After the high school’s May 16 junior prom, seven students were apparently overcome by the effects of gummy candy containing THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the main ingredient in marijuana, according to Lancaster Acting Police Chief Edwin Burgwinkel. While tests are still being run on the candy, he said, “This is the first time we’ve seen these concentrated levels of THP, so the parents need to know what’s going on here.”
According to Burgwinkel, Lancaster emergency personnel were called to an after-prom party on Hilltop Road, hosted by Tina Schryver, around midnight Saturday after several guests became severely ill. Seven of the students were rushed to Clinton Hospital. Burgwinkel also said the party likely hosted prom guests from all three Nashoba towns. Of the students treated, only one was over age 18.
After interviewing all of the party guests involved, Burgwinkel reported two underage party guests, plus another juvenile not attending the party, recently were arrested on charges of conspiring to violate the controlled substance laws, and distribution of a Class C substance. Two of the juveniles were NRHS students, one from Stow, another from Lancaster, he added. The suspects will be arraigned in juvenile court at Worcester District Court on a date to be announced, Burgwinkel said.
However, Burgwinkel noted that, as of press time, it appeared unlikely the Schryvers would be brought up on charges under the social hosting law, though, “I’m not counting anything out.” He explained police found the students went to great lengths to find a substance to ingest post-prom that could easily be hidden from parents. “The kids in this case knew if they had beer, they’d get caught. If they had marijuana, it has an odor, they’d get caught. One of the kids said if we had alcohol, my parents would have figured out.” Burgwinkel also stressed the hosts appeared to have been “very vigilant” about checking the party for alcohol and drug use.
Burgwinkel said that the police departments of Nashoba’s three towns are all involved in the investigation, with the towns’ police chiefs meeting last week to discuss how to curb drug use at the high school. “We’ve started talking about putting some things into motion that will assist the SROs [school resource officers] up at Nashoba, and help them recognize some of these drugs that are so hard to spot,” he said. “This is a whole different animal.
“This is scary stuff, because the consistency and the smell and everything about these is just like a gummy bear,” Burgwinkel warned. “Anyone would take this as a candy. They look the part, and that’s frightening. And the concentration levels of this stuff is so dramatic that it can cause severe problems.”
Though investigators still do not know where the drugged candy came from, Burgwinkel mentioned that he knows of at least one mail-order company, based in Colorado, that sells the item.
The incident may have caught the attention of some high school parents.
Tuesday night, about 150 NRHS parents were set to attend a forum (scheduled well before the prom incident) to hear a drug and gang MA State Police officer discuss the signs and symptoms that parents and school staff should be looking for regarding potential drug use by young people. Sponsored by the Middlesex Partnership for Youth, Inc., the event was canceled at the last minute because the speaker was called to a police emergency. In contrast, when the MPY held a forum at the high school May 12, prior to prom (also scheduled in advance), on what the social hosting law involved, only about two parents attended.
There was no indication at press time as to whether the forum would be rescheduled.