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An Urban Legend Evolves: First Pot, Now MDMA in Trick-or-Treat Bags

There's no evidence anyone has ever passed off marijuana edibles or Molly tablets as Halloween candy.

Denver Police DepartmentDenver Police DepartmentWith Halloween just around the corner, it's time for scary news reports that begin, "With Halloween just around the corner…" This genre of yellow journalism often features warnings about tainted trick-or-treat candy, a mythical menace that in recent years has gained credibility thanks to the popularity of  marijuana edibles in states where such products are legal.

Last year police in Denver, where state-licensed marijuana merchants had recently begun serving recreational consumers, told parents to be on the lookout for THC-tainted treats in their children's candy bags. As usual, no actual cases of such surreptitious dosing were identified.

But fear of strangers with candy springs eternal. The fact that this threat so far has proven imaginary is not deterring reporters and law enforcement officials around the country from warning parents that harmless-looking treats might contain a mind-altering substance other than sugar—if not marijuana, then MDMA. 

Often the pretext for such reports is a drug seizure that occurs within a month or so of Halloween, even if there's no evidence of a connection to the holiday. Last month KTRK, the ABC station in Houston, reported that "a recent pot bust has authorities issuing a warning for parents, as Halloween approaches," because local drug agents had "learned that marijuana made into candy was being shipped across state lines." A few days later, after Orangeburg County, South Carolina, deputies found "several bags of marijuana-infused candy" in a local motel room, Sheriff Leroy Ravenell said "we need to pay close attention to the candy our children are in contact with and are consuming." Summarizing that report (which appeared on WLTX, the CBS station in Columbia), USA Today added the lead, "Just in time for Halloween…"

Atlantic Beach Police DepartmentAtlantic Beach Police DepartmentSimilarly, The Florida Times Union warned on October 14 that "Atlantic Beach parents may have another thing to worry about as Halloween trick-or-treating looms—candy infused with marijuana, as discovered following the recent arrest of a 33-year-old man with bags of it." Last week, after students at Miller High School in Miller, Missouri, were caught with THC-treated Skittles, Superintendent Dustin Storm also thought of Halloween, telling parents, "With Halloween coming up, it's very important to be observant." 

In other cases, warnings about marijuana-infused Halloween candy are not tied to any particular event; they are just part of the standard advice issued to parents in October.  On October 15, citing the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center, the Arizona Daily Star said parents of treat-or-treaters should "be on the lookout for any edible marijuana treats." Last week several Nebraska newspapers regurgitated a warning from the Nebraska Poison Control Center saying marijuana edibles that "resemble traditional candies" are "another good reason to check all your children's candy when they get home." Similarly, WITN, the NBC station in Greenville, North Carolina, warned viewers that "tricky packaging could land marijuana edibles in the hands of trick-or-treaters this Halloween." KTHV, the ABC station in Little Rock, Arkansas, reported that "police want parents to pay extra attention to the Halloween candy their kids collect this year, now that marijuana edibles are in circulation."

Reporters in Colorado have been a bit more cautious, presumably because they remember last year's false alarm about edibles sold by marijuana merchants in that state. Last Friday The Denver Post noted that "the initial concern last year over marijuana edibles ending up in Halloween candy never came to pass." KOAA, the NBC station in Colorado Springs, likewise conceded that authorities "have not seen a spike of accidental [marijuana] ingestion at Halloween." Still, you never know. "One of the big things with cannabis-containing candies, it does have a distinct smell," a local doctor told the station, saying parents should be "making sure you're looking at everything and making sure the packaging looks legitimate."

Almost all of these stories make a leap from the observation that cannabis candy exists to the completely unsubstantiated fear that someone might slip it into your kid's trick-or-treat bag. That scenario is highly implausible, since it is hard to see what the payoff would be for replacing cheap Halloween treats with expensive marijuana edibles. Given the delay between eating cannabis candy and feeling its effects, the hypothetical prankster could not even hope to witness the consequences of his trick. Furthermore, it seems that nothing like this has ever happened—or if it did, it somehow escaped the attention of the yellow journalists who keep warning us about the possibility. The story is kept alive by the gullibility of the same parents who anxiously examine their kid's Halloween candy for needles and shards of glass.

Jackson Metro Police DepartmentJackson Metro Police DepartmentThis year saw the birth of a new variation on this theme: Instead of cannabis in your kids' candy, maybe there's MDMA. Snopes.com, the online catalog of urban legends, traces the scare to a September 25 post by a Facebook user named Thomas Chizzo Bagwell featuring a photo of colorful Molly tablets. "If your kids get these for halloween," Bagwell wrote, "it's not candy." Last week the Jackson, Mississippi, police department posted the same photo, accompanied by this warning:

If your kids get these for Halloween candy, they ARE NOT CANDY!!! They are the new shapes of "Ecstasy" and can kill kids through overdoses!!! So, check your kid's candy and "When in doubt, Throw it out!!!" Be safe and always keep the shiny side up!!!

That burst of fact-free fear, which was later removed from the police department's Facebook page, transformed idle speculation into "an alert" issued by "police nationwide," as WILX, the NBC station in Lansing, Michigan, put it. WOIO, the CBS station in Cleveland, claimed "Ecstasy masked to look like candy" is "popping up all over the country, and police want to warn you." If a child were to eat one of those tablets, according to Westlake, Ohio, Police Capt. Guy Turner, "they would be in the emergency room without a doubt."

Why does Turner think that scenario is plausible? "Look at the colors," he told WOIO. "They're very similar to, like, Sweet Tarts or Sprees or Smarties. These people, they just piggyback off legitimate stuff."

Snopes.com writer Kim LaCapria notes that candy-colored MDMA tablets have been around for years. "As is often the case with such rumors," she writes, "the public seemed to conflate the existence of a drug that looked child-friendly…with deliberate manufacture of those substances with an intent to attract children. Prior to its September 2015 circulation on social media as a cautionary tale, the photograph of Ecstasy used here appeared primarily on blogs discussing (presumably adult) recreational drug use."

One widely carried TV report, credited to NBC, said "just one of those candy pills would cost about $10," which suggests "it's rare that it would pop up in your child's trick-or-treat bag." Still, "police do want you to be aware." In other words, there is no evidence that anyone has ever contemplated giving trick-or-treaters MDMA tablets, let alone actually done it, but you should worry about it anyway.

Child poisoners disguised as friendly neighbors seem to be the adult equivalent of witches, ghosts, vampires, werewolves, and zombies. As one randomly selected mother told WOIO, "It's really scary that there are people out there who want to hurt kids on Halloween." And who doesn't love a good scare this time of year?

[This post originally appeared at Forbes.com.]

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  • Princess Trigger||

    Just some fucking Candy Corn.
    No drug-laced candies or razor blades?
    Worst.
    Halloween.
    EVER!

  • Garth Bigelow||

    That's some almost pure premo corn syrup though.

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  • ||

    What happened to the needles and razor blades in apples? They were all the rage when I was a kid.

  • Almanian's Rusty Woodchipper||

    Yeah, this.

    Kids these days.

    AND GET OFF MY LAWN!!!

  • Juvenile Bluster||

    Off topic, kind of: MDMA being Schedule I is just as outrageous, stupid, and non-scientific as marijuana being Schedule I.

    But yeah. That stuff's expensive. What on earth would be the purpose of putting hundreds of dollars of MDMA into kids' trick-or-treat bags?

  • ||

    ...and that's how you know this is just a scare story about the boogeyman, because drugs are scary and of course drug dealers and junkies want to get innocent kids addicted, right? (And not even kids who are right there. Random kids somewhere else, who will be getting high at some later time.) For some reason you never hear about somebody giving kids "apple juice" that turns out to actually be Coeur de Lion 1959 calvados.

  • SusanM||

    OT: Submitted for your approval: Camera shy:

    http://www.cnn.com/2015/10/26/.....me-police/

    But in Friday's speech, and again Sunday, he [FBI Director James Comey] said he was trying to start a conversation about whether the pendulum has swung too far.

    "In today's YouTube world, are officers reluctant to get out of their cars and do the work that controls violent crime? Are officers answering 911 calls but avoiding the informal contact that keeps bad guys from standing around, especially with guns?" he asked in his Friday remarks. "I don't know whether this explains it entirely, but I do have a strong sense that some part of the explanation is a chill wind blowing through American law enforcement over the last year. And that wind is surely changing behavior."
  • UnCivilServant||

    "Oh noes, we're being watched! How are we supposed to shake people down ...uhh... enforce the law... if we're not anonymous and unaccountable?"

  • ||

    He is pissing in the wind. The SC has already ruled that videoing cops on duty is a constitutional right. To begin restricting it at this point means a clear 1st A violation.

    In other words Comey is complaining that people's fundamental rights make policing difficult. What a fuckstick.

  • Rich||

    Can you tell which candy is a marijuana edible?

    Ima say #2, because after that the DPD forgot to keep labeling.

  • UnCivilServant||

    Psst, the lower row is the top row turned over.

    /end whisper.

  • UnCivilServant||

    ... being played by another one from the same bag the first row came from.

    I'll bet either all or none of them, since the cops were too lazy to get more than one bag for their propaganda shoot.

  • Rich||

    Be safe and always keep the shiny side up!!!

    Don't harsh the buzz!

  • Tundra, well-chilled.||

    Oh sure, the good stuff shows up now that my kids are too old to trick-or-treat. Dammit.

  • Rockabilly||

    Responding to the crisis of people being able to get high without risking arrest, the Drug Enforcement Agency announced its intent to Emergency Schedule MDMA, placing it into Schedule 1 (the most restrictive class of drugs, such as heroin) for a year while it was decided how it should be permanently Scheduled.

    http://thedea.org/drughistory.html

  • Hugh Akston||

    Last year people were putting Iranian plutonium in Halloween candy. This year it's Syrian refugees,

  • Almanian's Rusty Woodchipper||

    Poor people can't afford Syrian refugees. So they have to use Mexican "dreamers".

    HAHAHAHAHAHA! Fuck poor people!

  • UnCivilServant||

    I thought they were grinding syrian refugees into vegitarian hot dogs.

  • Almanian's Rusty Woodchipper||

    KOSHER vegetarian hot dogs, no less.....

  • Garth Bigelow||

    I've still got Communists under my bed.

  • Just a thought not a sermon||

    I don't know, I've always found the kids getting the pot or the MDMA candy makes for a pretty mellow Halloween night. The year they got into the angel dust candy was a whole nother story, though.

  • Tundra, well-chilled.||

    +1 super-human strength.

  • Lee G||

  • Zeb||

    I suspect that MDMA might not exactly make the kids mellow.

  • ||

    Meh, it's nothing Benadryl or Dramamine can't effectively knock back.

  • sarcasmic||

    Looks like someone has a fear of alt-text.

  • Agile Cyborg||

    Halloween is a marketing fest for all sorts of fear and its monsters. Why should the fucking cops be left out of this whirlwind of worry?

  • Lee G||

    Because they start shooting people when they get afraid.

  • Agile Cyborg||

    A dribble of piss spreading in their panties seems to be enough to activate their trigger finger which is exactly why their ghoulish unions must be heard through the din of monsters.

  • MSimon||

    When I was growing up we had real drugs to worry about. Heroin in Halloween candy.

  • Grand Moff Serious Man||

    What is it about Halloween that makes people so generous they would give away expensive and coveted drugs to children?

  • Agile Cyborg||

    The nonexistent Molly tossed invisibly to these kids is still a thousand times better than all the motherfucking sugar society pours down their goddamn throats.

    Most of these kids in a lifetime will never see a line of coke or a fucking bean but sugar is so fucking thick in their everyday diet it's far fucking worse than any of the drugs that have built billion-dollar surveillance and law enforcement bureaucracies and imprisoned untold millions of non-violent offenders.

    Halloweens is the fucking super drug holiday where little kids by the millions are encouraged to consume the shittiest substance ever with total abandon. Praise the fucking sugar gods!

  • Mongo||

    "I got a rock."

    -- Charlie 'Crackhead' Brown

  • Mainer2||

    Every year since 1964 I've watched the Charlie Brown Halloween special.
    Henceforth I can never watch it without chuckling at this comment, which I'm sure will be in my head forever.

  • The Grinch||

    Dammit, in my day all we got was razor blades or abduction by a creep in a windowless van. These lucky little brats are going to get to trip balls.

  • Deckard||

    Who in the fuck would waste good molly on kids?

    Where were they when I was a kid?

  • Deckard||

    Who in the fuck would waste good molly on kids?

    Where were they when I was a kid?

  • Charles.H.Anziulewicz@wv.||

    I just hand out packs of cigarettes. You should see those little faces light up when "The Marlboro Man" gives them their treats!

  • Robert||

    Fooled ya, they were all Twix!

  • perlchpr||

    If someone's handing out MDMA, I'm gonna go trick or treating, and I don't give a fuck that I'm 38. ;)

  • TerryMichael||

    Well, I would go trick-or-treating if somebody would give me some MDMA.

  • AD-RtR/OS!||

    WARNING: Your child, during Trick-or-Treating, could be offered one of the most deadly substances on Earth:
    Dihydrogen Monoxide (DHMO)!

  • Stephencj||

    It's not a matter of whether or not a child would mistake the two, it's whether an adult would knowingly give away their stash. Why the fuck would anyone do that? To children, no less?

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