A trip to Sonic intended as a treat ended with a surprise twist for a Frederick woman.
Carla McFarland said she went to Sonic on Guilford Drive on Wednesday with her 6-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son after a trip to the library and a morning spent packing boxes. After passing chicken strips and fries to her children, McFarland, 35, reached into the bag for her own food and found a small plastic bag containing what appeared to be marijuana in a third container holding her own fries.
“I just kind of sat there in my car in shock,” McFarland said Thursday. “I kept thinking, what if my kids had eaten it?”
McFarland contacted Sonic's management and called police. McFarland said a manager also called police and told her that an employee took responsibility for the bag, saying that it must have slipped from her apron. The manager told her the employee had been fired.
Franchisee John Louderback, who operates the location with his wife, confirmed the employee no longer works there. He said the incident was under investigation.
"As this time, we believe that concludes the issue," Louderback said. He would not comment about drug-testing policies involving employees.
McFarland said Sonic's management was apologetic. McFarland said her meal was remade and she was not charged for it. The Sonic franchise opened in May. It is the popular drive-in chain's only location in Frederick County.
“I definitely can't say that they didn't go out of their way,” McFarland said. “I honestly think they were more in shock than I was.”
Frederick County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Lt. Jennifer Bailey said the case is under investigation and no arrests had been made as of Thursday afternoon. A deputy seized the suspected marijuana, but it was not clear if it had been tested and confirmed as the drug, Bailey said. She said the employee's name would not be made public unless charges are filed.
For McFarland, the trip to Sonic was meant as a treat during a difficult few months for her family. Her husband has been in Georgetown University Hospital after surgery in May, and the family now faces eviction from its condo. The family has fallen behind on rent, with McFarland unable to work with two children.
The nonprofit Patty Pollatos Fund Inc. is stepping in to help the McFarland family with an online fundraiser planned to begin sometime next week, founder Debbie Williams said.
The discovery prompted a discussion about drugs and scared her daughter, who had already eaten one of her own fries before McFarland told her children to stop eating, she said.
McFarland said she posted about the discovery on Facebook, prompting laughs from some friends. Others urged her to go public. She doesn't believe the situation is a laughing matter.
“I think that's why everyone thinks it's so funny, because it's marijuana and it's going to be legalized,” she said. “It could have been crack. It could have been cocaine in that little baggie.”
Follow Courtney Mabeus on Twitter: @courtmabeus.
Help the McFarland family
Patty Pollatos Fund Inc. founder Debbie Williams said a fund has been set up to help the McFarland family cover expenses. An online fundraiser is not yet available, but people may contact the nonprofit at www.ppfinc.org/.