Science

No One’s Going to Give Your Kids Free Weed in Their Halloween Candy

There are no actual reports of this ever happening.

Illustration of a hand reaching into a bag with expensive weed candy while cheaper candy lies around.
Natalie Matthews-Ramo

Every fall, as hordes of children look forward to Halloween’s sugar high, plenty of adults worry that the candy kids receive trick-or-treating will get them actually high. Police and public health officials warn parents about the dangers of drug-laced candy every year. And this year, police in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, kicked things off with a warning for parents to beware of THC-infused Nerds ropes.

It goes without saying that yes, it’s good to remain vigilant on Halloween. The same common sense rules about what not to eat on any other day of the year also applies to trick-or-treat spoils: Don’t eat random pieces of unwrapped candy or anything else that seems off to you. But rest assured that, even in this age of weed-infused gummies, it’s incredibly unlikely kids are going to end up with marijuana candy. Because why would adults give away their marijuana over consuming it themselves?

First off, weed is expensive. In Seattle, marijuana candies sold from licensed dispensaries start at around $3.25 for a single 10 milligram THC- or CBD-infused gummy or caramel and can cost as much as $10 for fancier chocolates and cookies. For comparison, a bag with 60 fun-size pieces of the good Halloween candy—Twix, M&Ms, Snickers, etc.— is $11 on Amazon, or 18 cents apiece, 1/18th of the price of a single weed gummy. If you want to be the most popular house in your neighborhood, the house kids will remember two decades later as the one that gives out full-size candy bars, you can splurge on an 18-pack of Reese’s, Hershey’s, and Kit Kats for $11.84, or $0.65 a bar. A single marijuana candy is still five times more expensive than that.

The confiscated candy shown in the Johnstown Police Department’s post say right on the label that each rope contains 400mg of THC. That’s not only a ton of weed per package, but it’s still going to run at least $50 a package, says Dylan Duarte, who works at Herbs House, a dispensary in north Seattle. For that price, you might as well just order each trick-or-treater a 2-pound box of gourmet See’s candies, wrapped with a gold bow.

So, it seems unlikely anyone in their right mind would drop hundreds of dollars on drugging kids. (And here’s the obligatory reminder that giving marijuana to minors is a crime that can put you away for up to 10 years in some states.) There’s always the possibility that weed candy might accidentally make its way into a candy stash meant for kids? Luckily, officials in states that have legalized recreational marijuana use have considered this and mandated packaging that makes it exceedingly obvious marijuana edibles contain marijuana.

In Washington, the state’s 2019 packaging and labeling policies require all marijuana products to include a “Not For Kids” logo displaying an emergency number, a very obvious marijuana leaf, and details about the product’s contents (e.g., “10 capsules, 10mg THC each”). Oregon and Colorado also require packages to contain a marijuana symbol; Maine prohibits the use of the word “candy” on any edibles labeling and prohibits any package that could be “confused with commercially sold candy.”

Of course, not everyone will follow those packaging laws. The Nerds rope, for instance, looks a lot like regular kids’ candy, and weed candy that spoofs popular candy bars (Keef Kat, Twixed, 3 Rastateers, Rasta Reese’s) have turned up in California, too. Adults should be able to tell immediately that these aren’t the name-brand candies, but even if a parent doesn’t check each piece of candy for those very obvious labels, states mandate that edibles’ packaging also be difficult to open, with an eye toward keeping children out. Unlike the easily rippable candy wrappers, edibles must be packaged in a thicker plastic “and be heat sealed with no easy-open tab, dimple, or flap as to make it difficult for a child to open and as a tamperproof measure,” per Washington state law. Colorado, Oregon, California, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Alaska also mandate marijuana edibles producers use “child-resistant” packaging.

Not all weed candy is going to come from a formal dispensary in a state where it’s legalized … but homemade weed candies will more obviously be sketchy food you shouldn’t eat. Anyone who’s ever made pot cookies or brownies knows that they’re (again) expensive, and a huge pain to make, and the result generally looks terrible. Again, defaulting to common sense—don’t eat random unwrapped foods of unknown origin—should work to deter kids from eating any homemade weed treats that find their way into a candy stash. If that’s not enough to stop them, the smell and taste probably will: Even professionally made edibles sometimes have a slight tinge of skunkiness or grassiness, which is unlikely to appeal to kids’ palates.

If all that isn’t enough to assuage your worries, take it from Joel Best, who’s been following instances of “Halloween sadism”—needles, poison, or drugs in candy—for the last three decades. He’s been interviewed so many times about this work that he has a page on his website detailing his research and debunking several deaths attributed to Halloween sadism. His findings? “I don’t know of anybody who’s been hurt from drugs in Halloween candy,” he says. Leading up to Halloween 2013, the first Halloween since Colorado and Washington became the first two states to legalize marijuana, he got a fair number of questions about whether we might see more weed candies in kids’ candy pails. “It turns out there weren’t any actual reports of it, but there was a lot of speculation,” he says.

There are other dangers on Halloween night. Emergency rooms routinely see kids on Halloween, says Best, but “it’s related to sending kids into the dark, getting hit by cars, and tripping over costumes,” not tainted candy. A 2018 study found that each Halloween accounts for an additional four pedestrian deaths. Compared to the so far empty threat of weed-laced candy, that figure is pretty spooky.