“Marijuana candy is a real concern,” Rachel O’Bryan of Smart Colorado tells USAToday reporter Trevor Hughes. With no way to tell if pot is in candy, even for marijuana retailers, USAToday shares this danger in Colorado with a national audience. Colorado Rep. Frank McNulty and local dispensary owner Patrick Johnson also weigh in on the invisible threat of pot in familiar candy and food products.
October 22, 2014
DENVER – Some Colorado parents are worried their kids might come home with something dangerous after trick-or-treating this Halloween: marijuana-infused candy.
Colorado on Jan. 1 legalized the sale of recreational pot, and foods like chocolates, mints and gummy bears infused with marijuana quickly became best-sellers, accounting for as much as 45% of sales at some pot shops. But once unwrapped, the candies are hard to tell apart from their non-infused counterparts, and that has some people worried. Denver police have issued a video alert highlighting the similarities between regular and marijuana candy.
“There’s really no way a child or a parent or anybody, even an expert in the field, to tell you whether a product is infused or not,” Patrick Johnson, the owner of Urban Dispensary in Denver, said in the police video.
“Marijuana candy is a real concern,” said Rachel O’Bryan of SMART Colorado, a lobbying group working to keep pot out of the hands of kids. “Parents don’t know, many parents don’t know, marijuana is in candy. We see this as a problem and we don’t believe it’s being blown out of proportion, and we do believe that marijuana in candy appeals to kids.”
Marijuana industry spokesman Dan Anglin called the concerns about kids being handed pot-tainted candy ridiculous and “a lie.” He said scaremongers are trying to whip up controversy and sway opinion against edibles at a time when state regulators are considering a proposal to ban them or require far stricter labels.
Anglin, of the newly formed Colorado Cannabis Chamber of Commerce, said parents might as well worry about movie villain Freddy Krueger. He said it’s laughable that someone would hand out hundreds of dollars worth of marijuana candy to strangers, especially kids, or leave it around where grandma might get into it.
“It’s never, ever happened but it could happen … so why don’t we also do a public service announcement on ‘Sharknadoes’ in Denver next week?,” Anglin said. “There’s actually nothing to be scared of, and people don’t do this.”
This summer, three adults say they were sickened and at least one was hospitalized after being given what they believe was marijuana-infused candy at the Denver County Fair despite assurances that it was just plain chocolate. And Denver-area hospitals have reported a surge in accidental overdoses by kids eating pot candy they obtained illegally.
“I don’t think you’re going to see a lot of marijuana candies in Halloween bags,” said state Rep. Frank McNulty, but “it is something that parents need to think about.”
McNulty is pushing state regulators to require better labels on marijuana-containing foods, including possibly stamping warnings on individual pieces of candy so parents, teachers and police can easily tell them apart from regular candy. Edibles are a popular alternative to smoking because they’re seen as healthier and because it’s far easier to suck on a mint in a meeting or class than to light up a joint.
“You could have somebody do this just to see what happens, and they’re not concerned about the result it might have on the kids,” McNulty said of the concerns about tainted marijuana candy being handed out. “It’s not something that would keep me from letting (my daughter) go out and trick or treat, but it is something that would cause me to empty her bag out when she got home and go through it.”
Johnson, the pot shop owner featured in the Denver police video warning, echoed McNulty’s suggestion. He said responsible parents have long monitored exactly what their kids are eating, and this year should be no different.
“If they don’t look like something you’re familiar (with), it’s best just to toss that stuff into the trash,” Johnson said. “If it looks like the package has been tampered with whatsoever, we should use those practices we’ve been using since I was a child – it’s best to dispose of that candy. I think the only ones that will be upset about that will be the children’s dentists.”