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Illinois Sheriff Passes Off Japanese Candy As Marijuana-Infused Halloween Treat

Warnings of pot in trick-or-treat bags still have no basis in reality.

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Bureau County Sheriff's Office

On Monday the Bureau County, Illinois, sheriff's office issued a press release describing "an incident following Trick or Treat" in which "parents came forward with suspicious looking candy marked as Crunch Choco Bar," the wrapper of which "has small pictures of cannabis leaves on it." According to Bureau County Sheriff James Reed, "the substance was field tested and was positive for containing cannabis." The press release closed by urging parents (as always!) to be vigilant against tainted or sabotaged Halloween treats and asking for information about "which residence provided this candy," which supposedly was handed out in Manlius, a tiny town northwest of Princeton, the Bureau County seat.

Is this the long-awaited evidence that malevolent strangers really are trying to get your kids high by slipping marijuana edibles into their trick-or-treat bags? Nope. As an eagle-eyed blogger pointed out at Dankspace.com, the picture accompanying Reed's press release shows Japanese candy bars sold under the brand name Iroha Kaede, which is a kind of maple tree. That's right: Those "small pictures of cannabis leaves" are actually small pictures of maple leaves. If the candy bar really did come up "positive for containing cannabis" in a field test, that just shows how unreliable such tests are.

Iroha Kaede

Although a Google search for "Crunch Choco Bar" would have quickly revealed this story as unfounded, several local news outlets, including WQAD (an ABC affiliate), the Dispatch-Argus, and the Bureau County Republican, credulously passed it along. In addition to the fact that Sheriff Reed's photo of cannabis candy does not actually show cannabis candy, several things should have given reporters pause.

First, the candy supposedly was received on October 30, which is not the traditional day for trick or treating. Second, someone trying to pass marijuana edibles off as ordinary Halloween candy probably would not hand out products marked with cannabis leaves, and he probably would not do it in a town with a population of 350. Third, this would have been the first verified example ever of someone trying to pull off such a prank. Fourth, there is little incentive for anyone to do so, given the high cost of replacing cheap candy with expensive marijuana edibles and the lack of a payoff. Even assuming a kid eats the candy, the effects would not be apparent for an hour or two, so what's in it for the prankster?

Bureau County Sheriff's Office

A search of the Nexis database turns up 13 warnings about marijuana candy in trick-or-treat bags published by newspapers since October 1. Nine of those warnings appeared in public disservice pieces that ran in Iowa and Nebraska under headlines such as "Tips to Stay Safe on Halloween Night" and "Don't Clown Around This Halloween." One story ran in the Salem, Oregon, Statesman Journal, which noted that Monday was "the first Halloween when recreational edibles were legal to sell in Oregon," although it conceded that "the Oregon Poison Center doesn't forecast anyone giving out candies with marijuana." Still, you can never be too safe, right? Similar stories, encouraged by propaganda from the Denver Police Department, appeared after legal recreational marijuana sales began in Colorado, where police reported no actual incidents of THC-tainted treats.

The four other 2016 stories about marijuana-infused Halloween candy, which appeared in The Miami Herald, the Orlando Sentinel, the Bradenton Herald, and the Las Vegas Review-Journal, reported warnings from opponents of initiatives that would legalize marijuana for medical use in Florida and for recreational use in Nevada. The Sentinel also ran a column by Scott Maxwell calling the scare tactic "hogwash." The only reports of an actual incident were the ones provoked by Sheriff Reed's press release, which was printed on stationery that proclaims "Honesty…Integrity…Trust," right below the photo of counterfeit cannabis candy.

[Thanks to Joshua Hotchkin for the tip.]