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Cannabis was packaged for commercial sale, investigators report
Two suspects were jailed in Cotulla early Sunday, August 14, after being found in possession of marijuana and pills believed to have been laced with fentanyl.
One of the suspects is also believed to have swallowed methamphetamine prior to being taken into custody.
The La Salle County Sheriff’s Office is reporting this week that the case began when Deputy Glenn Harlow made a routine traffic stop on North Main Street near the IH-35 intersection in Cotulla at around 2:30 a.m. Sunday and detected an odor of marijuana in the suspects’ car, a black 2009 Pontiac Vibe hatchback sedan.
The driver has been identified as 19-year-old Angelina Vargas of Cotulla. Her passenger is listed as Vidal Castaneda Jr., 22.
Deputy Harlow reported that he examined the vehicle and found a bag of marijuana as well as packages of cannabis flower that had been labeled for commercial sale.
In a brief interview Monday, La Salle Lt. Homar Olivarez said the contraband appeared to be packaged in the style of commercially available cannabis that is sold over the counter at licensed dispensaries in states where such substances are legal.
In Sunday’s case, the cannabis flower had been labeled as White Runtz in purple bags with zipper closures.
Deputy Harlow also discovered bags of pills in the vehicle and identified them as typical of prescription Xanax but learned later that they may have been laced with fentanyl.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists fentanyl as a synthetic opioid approved for treating severe pain, typically associated with advanced stages of cancer.
Fentanyl is assessed at being “fifty to a hundred times more potent than morphine,” according to the CDC, which adds that the narcotic is also sold through illegal drug markets for its “heroin-like effect.”
Fentanyl is “often mixed with heroin and/or cocaine as a combination product,” according to the CDC, “with or without the user’s knowledge, to increase its euphoric effects.”
Fentanyl has been linked to a number of overdose deaths in the US, and the CDC reports that more than 56,000 people died from overdoses involving synthetic opioids in 2020.
According to the sheriff’s office, Vargas made a statement related to her alleged possession of the pills and indicated to investigating officers that the Xanax (alprazolam) pills contained fentanyl.
Alprazolam is a benzodiazepine prescription drug used for treatment of anxiety and affects the brain and central nervous system.
Vargas was taken into custody on a drug possession charge and was also charged with having concealed methamphetamine on her person. The sheriff’s office reported Monday that Vargas allegedly ingested the methamphetamine in an attempt to conceal the narcotics and that she had to be transported to Frio Regional Hospital for treatment.
“The driver admitted to being prepared to sell marijuana and pills,” the sheriff’s lieutenant said Monday.
Castaneda was listed as a wanted fugitive in Bexar County on arrest warrants for probation violations and subsequently jailed.
Lt. Olivarez said the seized narcotics have been dispatched to a law enforcement laboratory in Bexar County for analysis.
Cannabis or marijuana commercial sales were legalized in Colorado and Washington in 2012; Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia in 2014; Nevada, Massachusetts, Maine and California in 2016; Michigan in 2018; Illinois in 2019; Vermont, New Jersey, Montana and Arizona in 2020; and Virginia, New York, New Mexico and Connecticut in 2021.