Marijuana

Are People Really Trying to Drug Kids With Marijuana-Laced Halloween Candy?

While media outlets and law enforcement officials warn that pot-infused edibles could end up in kids' treat bags, evidence suggests there's no reason to worry.

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Move over, razor blades and shards of glass. The latest menace to innocent trick-or-treaters, according to the Denver Police Department (DPD), is marijuana-infused candy passed off as unspiked versions of the same treats.

Last week the DPD posted a video in which Patrick Johnson, proprietor of Denver's Urban Dispensary, warns that "there's really no way to tell the difference between candy that's infused and candy that's not infused" once the products have been removed from their original packages. The video illustrates Johnson's point with images of innocuous-looking gummy bears and gumdrops. He advises parents to inspect their kids' Halloween haul and discard anything that looks unfamiliar or seems to have been tampered with.

Det. Aaron Kafer of the DPD's Marijuana Unit amplifies that message in an "Ask the Expert" podcast, saying "there's a ton of edible stuff that's out there on the market that's infused with marijuana that could be a big problem for your child." Noting that "all marijuana edibles have to be labeled," Kafer recommends that parents make sure their kids "avoid and not consume anything that is out of the package."

CNN turned these warnings into a widely carried story headlined "Tricks, Treats and THC Fears in Colorado." According to CNN, "Colorado parents have a new fear to factor in this Halloween: a very adult treat ending up in their kids' candy bags."

Actually, this fear is not so new. For years law enforcement officials have been warning parents to be on the lookout for marijuana edibles in their kids' trick-or-treat sacks. And for years, as far as I can tell, there has not been a single documented case in which someone has tried to get kids high by doling out THC-tainted treats disguised as ordinary candy. Since 1996, the year that California became the first state to legalize marijuana for medical use, the newspapers and wire services covered by the Nexis database have not carried any reports of such trickery, although they have carried more than a few articles in which people worry about the possibility.

After the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) raided a San Francisco manufacturer of marijuana edibles in September 2007, for instance, the agency claimed it was protecting children, especially the ones who dress up in costumes and go begging for candy on October 31. "Kids and parents need to be careful in case kids get ahold of this candy," said Javier Pena, special agent in charge of the DEA's San Francisco office. "Halloween is coming up." According to the Contra Costa Times, medical marijuana advocates "dismissed Pena's Halloween reference as an 'absurd' attempt at 'pure publicity.'"

A similar motive could be discerned three years later, when the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department "warned parents to be on the lookout for marijuana-laced candy, soda, freezer pops and other edibles that could be handed out on Halloween," as the City News Service put it. "You really can't tell the difference," said Capt. Ralph Ornelas of the department's Narcotics Bureau. "We felt obligated to share this information with the parents and the community." As critics noted, Ornelas felt obligated to share this information just four days before voters decided the fate of Proposition 19, a marijuana legalization initiative opposed by his boss, Sheriff Lee Baca.

State officials also have been known to use Halloween as an excuse to remind people that drugs are bad. In 2008 Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum warned that "federal and state law enforcement agencies have reported that flavored drugs, particularly methamphetamines, heroin and marijuana, are circulating throughout the United States and could be ingested by unsuspecting children." He advised parents to "check their children's candy for anything which may resemble one of these new drug forms." McCollum gets extra credit for mentioning candy-flavored meth, an apparently apocryphal threat that the DEA was never able to confirm.

Sometimes drug warriors play the Halloween card just because it's there. Last October, after campus police seized 40 pounds of marijuana-infused candy at West Chester State University in Pennsylvania, the Associated Press reported that Chester County Deputy District Attorney Patrick Carmody "says there's no indication students planned to distribute the candy to children for Halloween." Rather, "Authorities believe the candy was meant to be shared and sold among university students." Carmody still could not resist. "With Halloween just around the corner," he said, "the last thing we want to see is drug-laced candy hitting the streets."

Reporters do not necessarily need prodding from law enforcement officials to draw this connection, based purely on temporal coincidence. In October 2012, Buffalo police raided a college party and seized 640 pot-infused lollipops that had been shipped from California. Here is how the A.P. story began: "Just in time for Halloween…"

A year later, KYTV, the NBC station in Springfield, Missouri, reported that police had intercepted a package of cannabis candy mailed from Colorado to Joplin. "Halloween is just around the corner," KYTV noted, adding that "the sheriff wants everyone to know that candy like these lemon drops are being circulated throughout the area, a safety concern for kids." To ratchet up that fear, the station quoted a random mother of three. "I hope it was never intended to give to kids or to harm children," she said, "but it is scary, especially with Halloween coming up, that they might be in contact with something like that, so it's frightening."

The prospect of seemingly friendly folks slipping your kids cannabis candy on Halloween is a bit less frightening when you realize how little evidence there is that anyone wants to do that. With marijuana edibles selling for much more than the regular candy you can get by the bagful at Walmart, it would be a pretty pricey prank. So far it does not seem that anyone has been tempted to play it. Dispensaries have been selling marijuana edibles for years in Colorado, where medical use of cannabis has been legal since 2001. Yet Michael Elliott, executive director of Colorado's Marijuana Industry Group, says he is not aware of any incidents where edibles have been surreptitiously distributed to trick-or-treaters in that state or any of the 22 others that allow medical use.

"We don't have any cases of it," confirms Ron Hackett, a spokesman for the Denver Police Department. Nor does he know of any such cases in other jurisdictions. "This is our first year with [recreational] edibles, and we just kind of wanted to put it out there as a reminder," Hackett says. "It's just something that we really wanted to get out there and get ahead of, because kids will eat anything."

A blogger at Ladybud, a "women's lifestyle publication with a focus on activism specific to Drug War reform and other socially progressive issues," detects a more sinister agenda. "This is just another way for those who most benefit from marijuana prohibition to try to convince the public that prohibition protects children," she writes. "The real message here is that the average citizen should be wary of cannabis users; they might want to drug your kids and get them 'hooked' too."

She has a point, although one should not discount the perennial appeal of urban legends about children in peril, especially the sort of unconfirmed yet scary tales that led many parents to anxiously examine their kids' Halloween treats long before marijuana edibles were openly sold in stores. If you worry that malicious strangers are sticking needles into chocolate bars or dosing caramel apples with poison, you probably will also worry that they are passing off expensive marijuana edibles as dime store candy—just for kicks.

There is a cost to such bogeyman stories, and it goes beyond needlessly discarded candy. These rumors portray the world as a darker, more dangerous place than it really is, which is probably not conducive to a happy childhood or a successful adulthood. At the same time, the credence that public officials lend to such fanciful fears makes any reasonably skeptical person doubt other warnings from the same authorities, an unfortunate result when those warnings happen to be accurate and useful. I assume that happens from time to time, although no examples spring to mind.

This article originally appeared at Forbes.com.

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40 responses to “Are People Really Trying to Drug Kids With Marijuana-Laced Halloween Candy?

  1. Like stoners are going to waste their weed on a little kid. Not happenin’…

  2. Ah, the poisoned candy myth, all dolled up for a new generation.

    It’s an irritable intersection of fear of the modern world, a projection of anomie, and the simple human impulse to ruin anything even remotely fun.

    1. And worse, it distracts from the pertinent issue of Ebola-laced Halloween candy.

      1. I thought it was ISIS brainwash candy?

        1. Why not both?

  3. Going for a record, with this one? How many times has this been posted?

    1. Since Halloween is less than two weeks away, I’m sure we will see it several more times.

    2. Any article related to pot must be re-done ad nauseum. How many articles did we get about some pot festival in LA? Then there was the medical marijuana grower in WA who’s been arrested for following state law. Don’t get me wrong, what the federal prosecutor did is terrible on every level, but with as many people as the government crushes every day I don’t think we need reruns to have a good supply of interesting stories/nut punches.

  4. Have they warned parents about butterfingers smeared in Ebola feces?
    That’s a thing, right?

    1. Only in Dallas.

    2. Say, would you like a chocolate covered pretzel?

  5. My sister got some Halloween candy laced with something back in the 70s and thought the flowers from the wallpaper were talking to her. As a result my parents were a little over zealous about inspecting our Halloween candy thereafter. Good times… good times.

    1. Really? That actually happened? Was there a medical diagnosis? I’m legitimately curious about this.

      1. There was no medical diagnosis that I remember, but I was pretty young at the time. I’ll ask my sister about it later today and post what she remembers.

        From what I remember being told, she had several hallucinations and some of them scared her pretty bad. They lasted a few hours, starting late at night, but she was able to go to sleep and seemed fine the next day.

        1. Yeah, that sort of sounds like she had too much sugar and was imagining things…your parents were overreacting.

    2. You’re lying. I’m calling you a liar.

  6. nobody is spiking “halloween” treats with cannabis or giving out cannabis edibles….the stuff costs way to much…..

  7. Sometimes drug warriors play the Halloween card just because it’s there.

    It’s becoming like the truth.com commercials where I want to take up smoking or even just buy tobacco out of spite.

    I mean, if we’re all guilty until proven innocent, might as well have some fun getting the neighbors’ kids stoned, right?

    1. Summer of 1978, the American Cancer Society (or it may have been the American Lung Association) aired an anti-smoking ad so patronizing that I took up the habit. I never took to cigarettes, but have smoked both pipes and cigars with great pleasure.

  8. This is all only to be expected. The case for prohibition of Marijuana, Cocaine, and Heroin was sold to Congress largely through hysteria with a side order of racism. The pamphlets on the subject of “We gotta outlaw these drugs to keep them goddamned niggers in line” could have been subcontracted to the Klan without getting much worse. And, in retrospect, there is the strong odor of a “full employment for out work Prohibition agents” measure.

    After all, if sense about the Drug War broke out, some of the Drug Warriors might have to WORK for a living, instead of playing Gangbusters in their neat Military hand-me-downs.

    1. Grown men playing GI Joe, destroying a plant which has never actually caused one recorded direct death in all of recorded history…. all on our tax dollars. Brilliant!

  9. “These rumors portray the world as a darker, more dangerous place than it really is, which is probably not conducive to a happy childhood or a successful adulthood.”

    Makes for a GREAT Halloween though.

  10. Is reason trying to become a tabloid in order to attract millennials?

  11. I’m sure another angle for the drug warriors is that October 1 is the start of the fiscal year, so naturally they might want to ratchet up a little more fear in the September timeframe in order to remind the mouth breathers that without them, ALL YOUR CHILDREN WILL BE KILLED BY TEH EVUL DRUGZ.

    That and you tend to see an uptick in drug raids toward the end of one fiscal year if they have some money they haven’t spent yet. Probably a little from column A, a little from column B.

  12. Fear mongering at best. First, aren’t a shouldn’t allow the kids to eat anything but wrappered name brand candy.
    At worst, the kids will eat all their dinner and go to sleep early.

    1. “At worst, the kids will eat all their dinner and go to sleep early.”

      That’s what I said the first time they posted a story on this.

    2. Remember, parenting is not the job of the parent, it’s the government’s job.

  13. This reminds me of the ol’ Satanists putting razor blades in an apple myth that circulated in the 80’s. Last I heard, there was never a single case documented. Same bullshit, new package.

    1. Have you ever tried to actually put a razor blade into an apple? (Just teenaged scientific curiosity on my part). It’s fucking hard to do and there’s no way that it isn’t easily noticeable when you’re done. Also the massive amount of band-aids on the giver’s fingers isn’t at all suspicious.

      1. Have I ever tried to actually put a razor blade into an apple? No. Can’t say I have. I prefer to damage today’s youth psychologically.

        Hiding it is easy. Just cover it with caramel and diced nuts. Even then, someone who did that would get picked up pretty damn quick. It’s a process of elimination. Every kid remembers the homes of the assholes who didn’t give them proper candy.

    2. Only documented cases of kids poisoned from Halloween candy, it was their own families that did it.

  14. Imsurelotsof folks will risk a major feline charge to play a bad practical joke.

    1. ‘Felony’ dammit. I didNOT mean to invoke Bird Law.

      1. You have me a good chuckle here. Those dang cats!

  15. Yes, but you see, what the progressives who are on the libertarian’s side on this issue is forgetting the fact that “trick or treating” is an inherently unregulated act. No government agency inspects the candies (which could be homemade, shudders) given out. No background check is performed on homeowners who gives out the candy. For one day a year, ordinary people with no appropriate business license can give out bags worth of free candy to strangers.

    No kid will get poisoned by drug laced candy this year (hopefully). But what if someone finds that a candy wrapper contained a racist remark? Maybe someone will say “vote GOP” as he or she gives out the goodies. Then alarm bells ring and government intervention becomes necessary.

  16. “If you worry that malicious strangers are sticking needles into chocolate bars or dosing caramel apples with poison, you probably will also worry that they are passing off expensive marijuana edibles as dime store candy?just for kicks.”

    Awesome article. Bang On! Love the above quote…. so true!

  17. My roomate’s aunt makes $71 /hour on the laptop . She has been out of a job for six months but last month her income was $12021 just working on the laptop for a few hours.
    You can try this out. ????? http://www.jobsfish.com

  18. Because of Edibles I’ve changed from full legalization to Medicinal, federal rescheduling of Cannabis, and with all prohibitions on Hemp removed.

    On Point: It’s not a matter of who or when. Pedophiles lure children with candy. Even the packaging is child like in its attraction. If people need edibles then by all means supply their needs, but recognize that this medicine.

    You want to party? Make your own.

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