A Halloween Trick: Scaring Parents

by Bridget Hennessey, Vice President, Government Relations at Weedmaps

Every holiday has traditions. Even Halloween. In our house, you can bet on my kids coming up with clever and unusual ideas for costumes (my 10-year old is going as Sophia from “The Golden Girls”) . . but at the very last possible minute, so there’s also the tradition of the mad scramble to actually create it. A 24-hour limit — which starts the moment they wake up on Halloween morning — to enjoy their haul before it all gets thrown away is one of my favorite Halloween traditions. My kids aren’t crazy about that one.

And across the country, there’s another Halloween tradition: Bogus warnings about cannabis-infused candy making its way into trick or treat bags.

Inspecting my kids’ end-of-the-night bounty is certainly an important tradition for me, as it is for most parents. But I am more likely to find a live lizard in my 8-year old son’s plastic pumpkin (yes, that happened) and dirty, unwrapped candy (he’ll eat it if I don’t get it first) than I am to find THC filled gummy bears.

But you would never know that from the barrage of scare your pants off reporting from some local news media.

Take for example the tweet from Jaclyn Lee, a TV reporter from the ABC affiliate in Philadelphia: “@BensalemPolice are warning parents to LOOK at your child’s candy before they eat it. They confiscated these snacks that look a lot like the real thing. All are laced with THC.”

There is a lot to unpack here. The items shown in Lee’s tweet are legal, adult-use products, and are clearly marked as cannabis edibles (a cannabis leaf and THC level on the package, as well as the warning label required by the state of California). Saying that these products are “laced” with THC is like saying candy is “laced” with sugar.

But most concerning: There is no credible reason or even an indication that would lead anyone to believe that the edibles confiscated by the Bensalem police were intended to be given to trick or treating kids. And curiously, it appears that the original tweet has been removed from the police department’s Twitter account.

So how did we get here?

According to news reports, it all started when police pulled over a car for expired tags.

The driver, a 20 year old Philadelphia resident was caught with “50 pieces of THC edibles packaged to closely resemble popular candy and snack foods.” The driver told the police that he got the infused edibles from California and intended to sell them in Philadelphia. Nobody said anything about Halloween.

Today it is “doped Doritos.” When I was a kid, it was all about razor blades in apples. The thing is, none of that ever actually happened. There are no documented case of kids tricked into consuming cannabis because they were given it as a Halloween treat. There is also no documented case about the razor blades in apples either.

A few media outlets have debunked these urban legends throughout the years. Sadly, hundreds more continue to perpetuate this nonsense. I get it. It makes for good television. But it’s a false stereotype that legalization advocates must battle every single day, not just on one holiday. And let’s face it, a battle of facts is hard enough. But battling untrue scare tactics involving 5-year olds dressed as Tinkerbell is an often unwinnable war.

But things are beginning to change. As the momentum of legalization continues across the country, cannabis truths are emerging — enabling advocates to fight fiction with fact.

Ways to affect change are, well . . . changing. Late night talk shows, for example, yield tremendous power beyond pop culture — especially when they call out hypocrisy and stupidity peddled by mainstream media.

And Halloween is changing. More and more of the traditional trick or treating is happening during the day — at school — and less at night throughout the neighborhoods. Kids are going to retirement communities and convalescent homes in costumes, cheering up the residents and adding a “do good” element to the holiday.

Something else: candy is losing its lustre as the go-to treat to give youngsters on Halloween. The less candy, the less concern (real or imagined) about tainted candy. This year, I will likely find more decals, erasers, crayons, nickels and dimes, and other non-candy items among my goblin’s loot.

Swapping junk food for just junk is a Halloween tradition I’m very much looking forward to. The 24 hour tradition will still apply.

Bridget Hennessey is a Vice President at Weedmaps, the leading technology provider to the cannabis industry. She heads the company’s Government Relations Department.

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Weedmaps is a community where businesses and consumers can search and discover #cannabis products.

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