May 22, 2007
By Pamela Mortimer
Kenneth Affolter, 40, has been sued by candy giant Hershey for ripping off their identity. Affolter, already sentenced to 5 years in prison for manufacturing pot laced candy and soft drinks, will face up to $100,000 in damages for trademark infringement.
So much for free enterprise. Late last week, Kenneth Affolter of Lafayette, California was biding his time in a jail cell waiting to be transported to a state prison on charges of manufacturing candies and soft drinks containing varying amounts of THC, the most potent ingredient in marijuana. Then came the lawsuit from the Hershey Company, the most well-known and largest candy manufacturer in the world. Hershey’s suit accuses Affolter of trademark infringement, trademark dilution, and unfair competition. They are seeking $100,000 in damages.
The basis of the lawsuit lies in Affolter’s alteration of Hershey’s brand names and packaging in order to market his products to his clientele of medical marijuana users. Affolter’s company, Beyond Bomb is the largest producer of tasty laced treats in the western states. Names of some of Affolter’s candies and soft drinks include Toka-Cola, Bong's Root Beer, Stoney Rancher, Pot Tarts, Rasta Reese’s, Keef Kat, Buddafinger, and Munchy Way.
"(Packaged food products) have been on the market for about five years," said Buzz Fowler, who runs a medical marijuana delivery service. "It's just another way that people who need medical marijuana but can't smoke it ... can still use it."
While California state law permits the use of marijuana to treat specific medical ailments, federal law does not. Affolter’s company, Beyond Bomb, came to the attention of the DEA because of their volume of sales and savvy marketing campaigns.
Beyond Bomb was raided by more than 70 federal agents last October, resulting in the arrests of Affolter and 11 others on suspicion of drug trafficking. The raids took place at Beyond Bomb’s three facilities – warehouses and a manufacturing plant, as well as at Affolter’s home. When the feds raided one of the properties, located on Yerba Buena Avenue in Emeryville, they found quite a surprise in the form of a state of the art production facility. Inside the facility they discovered equipment designed for extracting THC from the plants, cooking the candy and soda, and packaging the snacks. But that’s not all.
"At one of the grow locations there was a time clock, like where workers could punch in and out," Special Agent Casey McEnry said. "And there were uniforms ... blue shirts and white lab coats hanging up there."
During the raid, agents also recovered thousands of marijuana plants, more than $150,000 in cash, a revolver, and two semi-automatic weapons. The authorities have not released information about the quantity or dollar estimates of the products they found.