NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The bright green vans plastered with colorful images of marijuana, and iconic cartoon characters like Shaggy and Scooby-Doo with bloodshot eyes, and signage boasting “Over a Million Stoned” may seem out of place in a state where recreational marijuana is illegal, but for years, they’ve made a home in and around the French Quarter.
“We sell lollipops, gummies, Rice Krispie treats, brownies, popcorn - if you can eat it, we can weed it,” said Ski Scott, who was selling the products from a van in downtown New Orleans.
The vehicles are often covered with images of Pineapple Express, Gorilla Glue and Grand Daddy Purp - which are all street names for pot - so for some, it’s not much of a leap to guess what the folks in the vans and trucks are pushing.
“Dope, marijuana, you know. They’re selling marijuana,” said Jeff Conklin, who was visiting from Georgia.
With names like Trippy Treats and Space Cakes boldly describing the products on display and for sale, some people expect the stuff to get them high, but if you ask one the people who sell it, she says guess again.
“People come up all the time and ask for marijuana, but our vehicle is simply a freedom of speech, so of course they have marijuana on the vehicle,” Scott said. “No marijuana in the vehicle, no marijuana in the vehicle, no.”
But that explanation still doesn’t stick with some visitors confused by the blatant advertising that includes images of and references to a product that is illegal for recreational use in Louisiana.
“I don’t know, but it’s treating it like candy so that sort of caters to the kids. I don’t like them calling it candy. That’s just like advertising. Supposedly it was catered toward the young people,” said Don Arledge, who was visiting from Tennessee.
Still, Scott, who was actively selling brownies and Rice Krispie treats from one of the vans, claimed that’s just marketing, and the stuff inside the products is much more benign than THC-laden pot.
“It's CBD, it's CBD products, yeah, it's the stuff they take out the THC. It's real good for you, for your pain, whatever's going on with you,” Scott said.
CBD, or cannabidiol, isn’t illegal like its cousin THC. In fact, states across the country allow sales of CBD over the counter, and it’s even for sale in stores in New Orleans.
“You know, when I saw the truck yesterday, I just thought, well this is one of the states where it’s legal,” said Dave Gabbert, who was visiting from Colorado.
It’s a perception that some think could take advantage of out-of-towners looking for weed.
“That didn’t, it didn’t cross my mind though, that it wouldn’t be real [weed],” said Cathy Gabbert from Colorado.
But we wanted to know how the people in the trucks and vans sell their product when visitors approach and when it’s not obvious a camera is rolling. So FOX 8 sent an undercover buyer with a hidden camera to see what would happen.
“Y’all got candies and stuff?” the undercover buyer asked a man sitting in a Weed World van.
“Yeah, we got candies and we got flower as well,” the Weed World salesman in the van says.
In the first interaction, FOX 8’s hidden camera captures the salesman offering “flower,” a word the DEA says is a street name for marijuana.
“So what do y’all sell, just candies?” the under-cover buyer asks.
“We sell candies, flower, I have Pineapple Express gummies, I have cotton candy gummies and I have Rice Krispie treats, and Cap’n Crunch. Rice Krispie treats and Cap’n Crunch are 80mg of THC in each treat. Those are twenty, yeah, for one Rice Krispie treat,” the Weed World Salesman said.
The salesman offers a small Rice Krispie treat packaged in a sealed bag for $20 and claims there is 80mg of THC in the product.
Dr. Kent Hutchison, a professor at the University of Colorado in Boulder, said if in fact the treat contains 80mg of THC, that would be a much higher dose than a casual user could handle.
“Five to 10 milligrams is really the max that you would want to use. Eighty milligrams, for a lot of people, is gonna make them very uncomfortable and very unhappy,” Hutchison said.
“That’s the Rice Krispie treat, it’s 80mg of THC,” the Weed World salesman said as he showed the buyer the product.
“And I can’t buy that from you here?” the under-cover buyer asked.
“Yes! That’s the reason why we ride around with them!” the Weed World salesman said.
But according to the city, that’s just not true.
“The permit that they have does not authorize them to do any sales from any vehicles or anything on the street,” said Director of New Orleans Department of Safety and Permits Zachary Smith.
Smith said Weed World does have an occupational license to operate a brick-and-mortar store on Chartres Street in the French Quarter.
Inside that location, clerks wear white lab coats and the windows are embellished with what looks like pot plants, but any sales for their vehicles is considered a violation.
“What do you recommend I try, gummies or…” the under-cover buyer asks.
“It depends on if you’re looking to get high, or you’re looking to get medicated,” the Weed World salesman said. “I have Rice Krispie, I have Cap’n Crunch, I have brownies, too.”
“Rice Krispie treat is fine,” the under-cover buyer said.
“Twenty bucks,” the Weed World salesman said as our under-cover buyer handed him the money.
At another van parked on Bourbon Street, our undercover buyer purchased four lollipops for $20, but the saleswoman in the van insisted it only contained CBD, not THC.
The city says State Police testing of the treats and candies haven’t found illegal substances in the candy. Smith said under Mayor Latoya Cantrell, the city is cracking down on what is potentially a scam targeting tourists.
“I think there’s a little bit taking advantage of intoxicated or leaving it loosely. Fun-seeking individuals who are in town for conventions and whatnot, but it’s definitely something that I would not purchase or go after, because I know better this is $20 candy when you can go into CVS and buy it for 50 cents,” Smith said.
In fact, while the trucks are sometimes parked just feet away from NOPD units, police are aware of what could be coming out of the vehicles.
“From the NOPD side of things, since the beginning of this year they’ve made, I believe, over or close to 12 arrests or summonses for illegal sales related to marketing things as marijuana, whether or not it has THC,” Smith said.
The NOPD says since January of this year, police have made four arrests and issued 10 summonses for “no occupational license and failure to pay city taxes” to people connected to the “weed candy” sales, and one additional arrest for simple battery when a weed truck vendor allegedly struck another weed truck vendor in the face.
But even after our buyer got the $20 treat, the salesman gave him another option.
“I have 3.5 grams of weed...of smoking bud, going for $50. Yeah, that’s exactly what it is, but it’s Purple Kush,” the Weed World salesman offered as our under-cover completed the sale and walked away.
Smoking bud, lollipops, a Rice Krispie treat - all illegally offered right out of the window of at vehicle in the French Quarter. If you’ve got the cash, buyer beware.
“A twenty-dollar lollipop? Tells you it should have marijuana in it,” Conklin said before he was asked, what if the treat didn’t contain THC? “Wow, you’re ripped off. That’s a pretty expensive lollipop,” Conklin said.
We spoke with the owner of Weed World, Bilal Muhammad, who said he has fired people in the past who were caught illegally selling products and offering marijuana from their vehicles. He claimed he’s tried to keep the company’s name clear and said the people who were selling from the street will be fired and potentially arrested.