Halloween 2021 is bringing the usual nationwide warnings from authorities to be on the lookout for nefarious strangers giving kids pot edibles that look like candy -- but how much of it is (a) based in reality and how much is (b) fear mongering?
The answers: (a) none of it and (b) all of it.
The true danger lies in people believing urban legends, says Snopes.com, a site dedicated to debunking them.
“You are more likely to summon Beetlejuice by saying his name three times than you are to find marijuana edibles in your children’s Halloween candy,” NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri told Marijuana Moment. “This myth reanimates itself year after year like a zombie from a Romero film -- and also like those zombies, is a work of pure fiction.
"No one is trying to spend hundreds of dollars to give cannabis to children and officials should finally give up on trying to spook parents every October with baseless fearmongering.”
Apples with razor blades and countless other heinous plots have been the stuff of TV news "consumer reports" and online news media fluff. These also include reports of drug-laced lollipops in 2000, Ecstasy-tainted candy in 2015 and heroin masquerading as SweeTarts two years ago.
All bogus, Snopes says.
Ten years ago, panic spread amid rumors that a Middle Eastern man had bought $15,000 worth of candy at Costcos in Hackensack and Wayne.
The FBI was called in. News reports followed. People freaked. A Hackensack police captain told a local news editor that concerned parents -- not to mention national and international media -- flooded his department with calls.
Mike Huckabee, then the governor of Arkansas, suggested trick-or-treaters stay home because anxious parents could bury police in requests to examine candy.
It turned out the "villain" was a flea market vendor who bought the sweets in bulk so he could make money reselling them individually. He wanted to make a killing at Halloween, although not the kind the fear-mongers predicted.
Snopes picked up that story from the Bergen Record. It also researched cases from every Halloween since then and found no reports of trick-or-treaters accidentally eating pot edibles -- or even being given them.
“Children are not at risk for contaminated treats," Joel Best, a University of Delaware professor of sociology and criminal justice, told the site. "For one thing, edible marijuana products are very expensive and this would be a very expensive prank.”
It's this simple: Edibles that are worth buying cost from $18 to $40 a bag. Do the math. No one is dropping hundreds of dollars on perfectly good THC snacks to turn around and drop them in some kids' bags. Even if only 50 trick-or-treaters come to the house, that's still a lot of dough.
Best said he researched back to 1958 and was "unable to find any evidence that any child has been killed or seriously injured by a contaminated treat picked up in the course of trick-or-treating.”
That hasn't stopped various authorities from issuing warnings that inevitably go viral -- thanks to fearful parents.
"People think they’re funny, and they’re going to put them in Halloween bags and not realize you could have a child now that could have a reaction to it,” Bensalem (PA) Public Safety Director Fred Harran told WPVI-TV following the arrest last month of a driver with a handful of edibles that he said looked like common sweets.
Full disclosure: There was one incident that fits the bill. But that was nearly 50 years ago, when a dad was convicted of murder for lacing Pixie Stix with cyanide and putting them in his son's candy, Snopes reported.
Since then, the site says, "only two cases somewhat resembled this rumor, although neither case involved an ill-intentioned neighbor intentionally drugging a child."
The numbers of children who mistakenly eat edibles is rising but that's primarily because their parents leave them around and not because of Halloween, the site says.
If the fact that Snopes has yet to find a single instance of Halloween doping doesn't ease your mind, consider that states where pot is legal require that companies licensed to make edibles use child- and tamper-proof packaging with clear labels identifying the THC content.
Yes, it is better to be safe than sorry. Parents and guardians should inspect everything their little trick-or-treaters bring home this weekend. But in this day and age, it’s also good to scrutinize "warnings" as carefully as you do their candy.
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