Debunking Prohibitionists’ Cannabis Dosed Halloween Candy Fears

Friday, October 28, 2016

Anti-marijuana group Don’t Let Florida Go to Pot and Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings are playing on parents’ fears by spreading the message that pot-infused candy will be handed out to children on Halloween.

“Officials came together today to warn that Florida children who go door to door for candy on Halloween may one day be at risk of receiving edible marijuana products if Amendment 2 comes to pass,” the group said on Monday. “This scary scenario isn’t the plot of an upcoming horror movie. According to medical and law enforcement officials, it’s a very real scenario playing out in states like California, Washington and Colorado, where marijuana has been legalized.”

Except that the horror scenario that Sheriff Demings and Don’t Let Florida Go to Pot claims is ravaging states where marijuana is legalized just isn’t true. There were zero cases cannabis edibles being handed to kids in Colorado or Washington on Halloween in 2014 or 2015. In fact, there have been no reported cases nationally, making the claim more akin to urban legends involving a razor blade hidden in an apple or piece of candy.

Of course, there have been cases around the country of children accidentally ingesting cannabis edibles, although the majority of exposure and ingestion cases are from pharmaceuticals and household products. For example, for every 1,000 emergency room visits for ingestion at Children’s Hospital Colorado from 2014 through 2015, only 6.4 were related to marijuana.

George Sam Wang, M.D., of the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, examined the effect of the legalization of recreational marijuana on unintentional pediatric exposures. Data from the study concluded:

  • Colorado saw an average 34 percent increase in regional poison center cases per year compared with a 19 percent increase in the rest of the United States.
  • Sources of marijuana were a parent, grandparent, neighbor, friend, babysitter or other family member.
  • Most pediatric marijuana exposures involved infused edible products; many exposures happened because marijuana products weren’t in child-resistant containers, there was poor child supervision or product storage issues.

Along with Washington, Colorado has served as a testing-ground state for cannabis, defining and revising rules and regulations for a commodity that had never been sold legally before. In an effort to reduce the number children accidentally ingesting marijuana edibles, Colorado did a major regulation overhaul.

Colorado has revised regulations on edible marijuana products to make them look less appealing to kids and less like their non-intoxicating counterparts. As of October 1, edibles in Colorado must come with a diamond-shaped THC stamp, on both the child-resistant packaging and the edible itself. Cannabis-infused gummy bears and other marijuana edibles shaped like animals, fruits or humans are also banned.

Rather than playing on baseless fears, officials and special-interest groups would better serve their communities by working with the cannabis industry on solutions that safely and fairly regulate marijuana.