Tykes Taking THC-Treated Treats From Tricksters on Halloween May Be an Urban Legend, but the Times Still Leads With It


Denver Police Department

The other day, I noted that a partner in CB Scientific, immediately after promoting his company's test kits as a defense against the mythical menace of marijuana-laced Halloween candy, added, "Not that we believe anyone will be passing out pot candy to kids…" New York Times reporter Jack Healy likewise is totally not lending credence to unsubstantiated rumors about strangers with cannabis candy who want to get your kids high. Except that he is.

"To some marijuana advocates," Healy writes, "the warning belongs with shadowy urban legends about poisoned chocolates and candy bars spiked with razor blades. There have not been any reported cases of marijuana-laced treats being passed out on Halloween here [in Colorado], and edible marijuana comes in drab packages that look nothing like regular candy." Yet Healy uses the Halloween angle to introduce a story about the hazards supposedly posed by newly legal marijuana edibles. Even if there is no truth to tales of tykes taking THC-treated treats from tricksters, he says, "the Halloween message underscored a growing concern among parents' groups and regulators that the abundant new varieties of legal, edible marijuana just look too much like regular food."

That concern recently led Colorado's health department to briefly propose a ban on almost all forms of marijuana edibles. It quickly backtracked from that idea, for good reasons. But let's take the concern about lookalike cannabis candy at face value. Doesn't it cast doubt on the effectiveness of warnings about marijuana edibles in trick-or-treat bags?

The Denver Police Department and other law enforcement agencies emphasize that the marijuana products look exactly like conventional candy, even while urging parents to be on the lookout for them. Short of testing every piece of candy (which would make the folks at CB Scientific very happy but would be prohibitively expensive), how is a parent who takes these warnings to heart supposed to distinguish between spiked and unspiked versions of the same product? They can toss out loose gummy candies and jelly beans, of course, and any edibles in their original packaging will be readily identifiable. But wouldn't a prankster who is determined to slip your kids cannabis candy think of putting it in packaging from conventional candy? Alternatively, he could buy regular candy and dose it with cannabis tincture. The truth is that there is no reliable, cost-effective defense against someone bent on disguising drugs as Halloween treats. 

It's a good thing such people do not seem to exist. Not only are there no documented cases, but the idea is implausible on its face. It would be a pretty pricey prank, since cannabis candy is a lot more expensive than the conventional sort. And what exactly is the payoff? The knowledge that, hours later, after the kids get home, eat the candy, and it starts to kick in, they will feel loopy and drowsy? The prankster would never know for sure that kids actually got high from his candy, and if they did he would not be around to witness the results.

But fear springs eternal. Today the Associated Press reported that police in Prince George's County, Maryland, "seized several boxes of candy infused with marijuana" that had been shipped from Colorado and "the West Coast." Exactly when this seizure happened is not clear, but the reason for announcing it today is: "Police say it's the first time they've seen that type of product in their jurisdiction and wanted to make parents aware of the seizure ahead of Friday's trick-or-treating."