Could Drug-Laced Edibles Be in Your Kids Trick or Treat Basket?

written by Carrie Borzillo - Oct 29, 2018

Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)
Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)

Any good parent knows to check their children's Halloween candy after a night of trick-or-treating. But, this Hallows’ Eve there's even more of a reason to be extra careful.

Now that marijuana — medical and/or recreational — has become legal in more and more areas in the world (in the United States alone, 31 states and the District of Columbia have legalized the medical use of cannabis on the state level), pot candy is more prevalent than ever before.

The problem is a lot of edible marijuana products look like legitimate candy with some of it coming in the form of a “knock-off” of well-known candy brands. Some of the knock-offs include OEO (based on Oreos cookies), KeefKat (based on Kit-Kat candy bars, Munchy Way (a Milky Way copycat), and Buddahfinger (a take on Butterfinger candy bars). But, they’re not just filled with milk and cocoa — they can pack a powerful psychotropic punch.

The most common type of pot candy is "gummies," which look like your typical Haribo brand Gold Bears Gummi Candy but contain very high level of TCH (tetrahydrocannabinols, which is the active chemical in cannabis. Other popular marijuana candies and sweet treats look like chocolate bars, lollipops, hard candies, and brownies.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Hapeville Police Department.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Hapeville Police Department.

Let's be honest, the chances of someone giving out drugs for free at Halloween time as a joke, or even with malicious intent, is extremely unlikely. But, hypothetically speaking, your unsuspecting edible-loving neighbor could very possibly, and accidentally, drop the pot candy that looks like real candy in the bin of treats going out to trick or treaters this year. Or a child can find their parents stash and think it’s okay to give out to trick-or-treaters this Halloween season.

As unlikely as it might seem, there have been a few recent incidents that have caused a reason to be extra careful. This September, Hapeville Police Department in Georgia confiscated a cache of cannabis lollipops and pills in the shape of Hello Kitty, Homer Simpson, and the Minions from the movie, Despicable Me, that could easily be confused by a child for normal candy.

“Our concern is these pills look like candy. Small children might ingest these items mistaking them for candy. Teens may see these drugs as less of a danger based on their looks,” a spokesperson for the Hapeville Police Department told USA Today in September. The spokesperson added that the incident is a good reminder for parents, teachers, and other caregivers to be extra careful this Halloween season for dangerous candy.

In January 2018, five children at a school in Goodyear, Arizona became ill after ingesting marijuana gummy candies. “What we believe is that one student brought it and the friends thought they were eating candy,” said Goodyear Police spokesperson Lisa Kutis at the time.

Additionally, in 2017, the Vernon Township Police Department in New Jersey found a "significant presence" of marijuana in the form of candy and other edibles in New Jersey and surrounding states. According to their release, the level of THC can be as high as 90 percent in candy, compared to only 10 to 20 percent in marijuana vegetation. This prompted the police to issue a warning to parents about the dangers of marijuana in their kids’ trick-or-treat baskets at the time.

Al Della Fave, spokesman for the Ocean County, New Jersey prosecutor's office, conceded at the time that the likelihood of someone giving a trick-or-treater marijuana candy is "very slim." "But you never know. All we're saying is check your kids' candy. If something's not in a manufacturer's wrapper ... throw it out. We're not trying to scare people,” he said.

Here’s what we’ve learned on how to properly check your kids’ candy, how to spot the warning signs that your child might have ingested edibles, and what to do next if you suspect something is amiss…

How To Properly Inspect Candy

For years, responsible parents have searched Halloween candy bags for questionable candies and treats containing razor blades, needles, and signs of other tampering. Darren Pautsch, chief of police in North Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, says to add an additional check for possible marijuana candy to parents’ search.

"Encourage your kids not to eat anything before they get home. And parents, we do encourage you to go through the candy and take a look at it before you allow them to eat anything," Pautsch told KFIZ in North Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.

Signs that the candy is not what it seems:

1. First, check all treats at home in a well-lighted area. If you use glasses for reading, put them on to inspect the candy as well.

2. Read the name of the candy carefully. With just one letter different, it would be very easy to mistake a package of the aforementioned OEO (a pot cookie) for the regular OREO.

3. Look for homemade packaging. If the candy or treat is in a plastic bag or unsealed wrapper, throw it out.

4. Smell the candy. Marijuana candy might look like a safe treat, but it certainly doesn’t smell like one. Most pot edibles will have a faint scent of marijuana. For those not familiar with the scent, it can range from a skunky smell to an earthy smell. If it smells funky or doesn’t smell like candy, it’s probably not safe.

5. Obviously, any candy or treat that is opened or has even a small tear in the package, should be discarded.

Warning Signs

Some might think that they’d know if their child was “high” on drugs. But, depending on the amount of the active ingredient in the pot candy, the symptoms can be very subtle and hard to notice. The police reports of the aforementioned incidents cited a list of the most common symptoms that parents can look out for. They include…

• Light-headedness

• Dizziness

• Stomach aches

• Shallow breathing

• Red eyes

• Dilated pupils

• Dry mouth

• Increased appetite

• Slow reaction time

• Paranoia

• Anxiety

• Odd behavior

• Excessive sleepiness

What To Do Next

The motto used to be: When in doubt, throw it out! But, if you suspect the candy or treat has drugs in it, it’s recommended to bring it to your local police station.

Additionally, if you suspect your child ate a marijuana product (legal or illegal, medical or recreational), you can use the online tool, WebPoisonControl, which features a checklist to assess the situation and instructions on what to do. Parents can also contact their national poison control center — in the United States, it’s 1-800-222-1222. All information will be kept private.


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