Halloween is coming. And along with the candy rushes, adorable costumes, and scary movies, we can look forward to the return of another annual tradition: When local police departments and attorneys general across the country start warning parents to look out for THC-laced candies in their children’s trick-or-treat bags. These warnings surface year after year, but the real risk is negligible, given how seldom this has happened in the past, and how unlikely it is to happen in the future.
The myth of Halloween candy being tampered with to hurt kids has been around for decades, and it’s just as bunk now as it was back then. In 2021, The New York Times reported that the “specter of THC-laced candies is no more threatening than past baseless legends,” and spoke to one expert, Joel Best, a sociology professor at the University of Delaware who has studied the topic since 1983. He said that there was “virtually no evidence” of the urban legend happening in real life: “I can’t find any evidence of any child being killed or seriously hurt by a contaminated treat picked up in the course of trick-or-treating,” Best told The Times.
A large contributor to the hysteria over marijuana-laced Halloween candy is that some manufacturers illegally package edibles to appear similar to classic candies like Nerds Rope. And, yes, these products are a risk to unassuming kids. But the real risk is that a child will stumble upon THC-laced candy inside your home or other homes where your kids play, where adults may leave the products in places where kids can access them.
In other words, don’t worry about ne’er-do-wells handing edibles out to children on Halloween. There are only a handful of accounts of the latter happening, out of the millions of children who traipse their neighborhood streets each Halloween.
As Best has found, people simply aren’t out to hurt trick-or-treaters. Beyond that, edibles are expensive. People pay good money for them, so they’re not just going to give it away to kids — and risk being charged a crime doing so.
While there are a handful of accounts of trick-or-treaters being given edibles, those incidents seem to have been mistakes — not purposeful attempts to harm kids. Of the tens of millions of children in the United States who hit the streets to trick-or-treat annually, Fatherly could find only four accounts total of kids getting into edibles, and two of those accounts were from Canada, not the U.S.
One guy in the Chicago suburbs was charged with putting gummy bears into plastic baggies he previously had marijuana in. Those baggies were also conspicuous and reeked of weed, so parents likely wouldn’t let kids go near those gummies anyway.
Edibles packaged as “Medicated Nerds Rope Bites” were allegedly passed out in Winnipeg, Canada, although no children were harmed.
The Vancouver Sun also reported one kid falling ill and being hospitalized after eating a “Medicated Nerds Rope” after trick-or-treating, but it’s unclear where the edible came from.
The same thing allegedly happened to a 5-year-old in Long Island who ate edibles packaged similarly to Starbursts, but again, the candies weren’t linked to trick-or-treating.
And that’s it. The risk of kids getting weed candy while trick-or-treating is extremely low.
“We are doing a lot of surveillance, and to date, I have never had a case or heard of a case or seen any case where a marijuana edible was given out to children instead of regular Halloween candy,” Denver-based Rocky Mountain Poison Control Director Shireen Banerji told Next with Kyle Clark via email, 9News reported in 2021.
Even if a malevolent stranger did attempt to hand out edibles on Halloween, homemade packaging, as in the Chicago incident, would make the swap conspicuously apparent. Plus, even Doritos and Nerds dupes are marked as containing THC on their packaging. It’s always a good idea to sort through your child’s candy, in any case.
The fear of edibles being handed out this Halloween is an outsized one. But there is one real danger to your kids on Halloween night: getting hit by a car. Best writes on his website, “Studies show that children’s risk of being struck by a car is four times higher on Halloween than on other nights… and Halloween has more child-pedestrian fatalities than any other day of the year.”
So if you’re going to focus on one thing this Halloween, it should be making sure kids look both ways before crossing the street. And of course, taxing your kid’s candy for Peanut M&Ms.