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Warning of marijuana Halloween candy derided as scare tactic

There are no documented cases of kids being poisoned by marijuana-laced Halloween candy. Zero. Zilch. Nada. But that isn’t stopping officials across the country from issuing dire warnings to parents about the alleged threat of pot candy in kids’ Halloween baskets.

A few recent headlines:

North Carolina: “Authorities concerned about candy that could get kids high”

Florida: “Parents Beware: Those Gummy Bears In Your Child’s Halloween Bag Could Be Edible Marijuana”

California: “Heads up: That candy treat could be a marijuana edible”

Massachusetts: “Police ask parents to inspect Halloween candy for possible marijuana-laced products”

New Jersey: “NJ officials warn of marijuana-laced candy”

Despite the complete lack of evidence of Halloween-related pot poisoning, marijuana candy remains a perennial favorite boogeyman among law enforcement officials, as well as media outlets looking for a scare story.

Pot candy panic first kicked into high gear in 2014, the year the country’s first recreational marijuana markets opened in Colorado and Washington state. Edible products, candy among them, proved to be surprisingly popular among pot consumers, accounting for nearly 50 percent of all legal marijuana sales in Colorado in 2014.

That popularity brought complications – stories of children (and adults) accidentally eating a pot brownie or candy, as well as a couple of instances of people killing either themselves or others after getting high on edibles.

Colorado subsequently devised stricter regulations on edible products, including guidelines for packaging and bans on certain shapes of candy, such as gummy bears. But edibles remain a popular target for legalization opponents, who contend that the products deliberately target children – never mind that adults love candy and brownies, too.

Law enforcement groups are often at the vanguard of opposition to legal marijuana, and they also tend to be the origin of most “warnings” of marijuana-tainted Halloween candy.

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Last week, for instance, the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office sent out a public advisory warning parents to “Check #Halloween candy for #marijuana infused candy.” The advisory included an anecdote about a 10-year-old New York boy who was sent to the emergency room after accidentally ingesting marijuana gummies.

But that incident wasn’t related to Halloween candy, and a spokesman for the New Jersey attorney general declined to cite specific cases or evidence of Halloween-related tampering when questioned by The Associated Press.

Part of the reason marijuana candies haven’t made their way into Halloween baskets – intentionally or otherwise – is that pot candy is expensive. Online, 3.5 ounces of “cannabis gummies” can cost 20 bucks, a princely sum that would net you about 20 pounds of non-marijuana-infused gummies on Amazon.

Another reason is that despite public fears, most people just don’t seem to be that interested in harming children on Halloween. A review of “Halloween Sadism” by University of Delaware sociologist Joel Best found that reports of deliberate harm via Halloween candy were rare, and most of them turned out to be hoaxes or not actually linked to candy.

“I have been unable to find a substantiated report of a child being killed or seriously injured by a contaminated treat picked up in the course of trick-or-treating,” Best concluded.

And while legally available marijuana candy is something of a new phenomenon, America has a long tradition of lacing sweets with another, far more toxic drug – alcohol. Yet while alcohol contributes to roughly 88,000 deaths each year, boozy candy somehow manages to stay out of the Halloween headlines.


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