As Halloween approaches, attorneys general from multiple states across the U.S. are warning parents about illicit marijuana products that resemble popular candies and snacks like Cheetos, Nerds and Oreos, which could confuse kids and lead to accidental intoxication.
In an apparently coordinated effort using identical imagery of the products in question, several state attorneys general recently issued advisories about edibles that are misleadingly marketed. The officials aren’t necessarily suggesting people are intentionally handing out the THC-infused candies to trick-or-treaters—a myth that cannabis advocates have long worked to debunk—but it does fit within a theme of messaging that seems to crop up every year around Halloween.
In New York, Attorney General Letitia James (D) cautioned consumers about illicit products resembling common brands, saying “these unregulated and deceptive cannabis products will only confuse and harm New Yorkers, which is why they have no place in our state.”
James didn’t specifically mention Halloween in the news release, but stressed it’s “essential that we limit their access to protect our communities and, more specifically, our children.”
These products are especially dangerous for our children.
We’ve seen an increase in accidental overdoses among children nationwide, and it’s vital that we do everything we can to protect our children.
— NY AG James (@NewYorkStateAG) October 26, 2021
In neighboring Connecticut, Attorney General William Tong (D) told parents to stay vigilant this Halloween. At a recent news conference, Tong said illicit marijuana products could contain concentrations of THC that exceed what will be legally allowed and regulated when retailers open in the state.
“These look-alike cannabis products are unregulated, unsafe and illegal,” Tong said. “Accidental cannabis overdoses by children are increasing nationwide, and these products will only make this worse. While Connecticut recently legalized adult-use cannabis, many of these products fall far outside the range of what will ever be safe or authorized for sale.”
New York and Connecticut have legalized cannabis for adult use, but sales haven’t launched yet, as regulators continue to develop rules for their respective markets.
Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul (D) also issued a warning about knockoff cannabis products, as did Ohio AG Dave Yost (R).
Responding to a reporter who pointed out there are no known examples in Ohio of trick-or-treaters being inadvertently dosed with marijuana edibles on past Halloweens, Yost said, “If this is the year that this trend hits Ohio trick-or-treat—and we’d said nothing—the question from the media would be why we ignored a national trend.”
Advocates share the desire to keep cannabis out of the hands of children—and they’ve grown tired of explaining just how sensationalized Halloween narratives have become. In this case, however, the messaging from the attorneys general seems more targeted at illegal manufacturers. They don’t seem to imply people are willfully distributing cannabis to minors.
“You are more likely to summon Beetlejuice by saying his name three times than you are to find marijuana edibles in your children’s Halloween candy,” NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri said.
“This myth reanimates itself year after year like a zombie from a Romero film, and, also like those zombies, is a work of pure fiction. No one is trying to spend hundreds of dollars to give cannabis to children, and officials should finally give up on trying to spook parents every October with baseless fearmongering.”
This is one of those marijuana myths that keeps coming back from the 💀 with a vengeance every time the 🎃 start popping up on your neighbors’ doorsteps. https://t.co/tNXt2zMS2T
— NORML (@NORML) October 22, 2021
While there are illegal THC products designed to look like mainstream brands, the idea that adults are spending their money to intentionally trick children into consuming marijuana hasn’t been borne out, despite the annual headlines.
Meanwhile, industry stakeholders are focusing their attention on illicit cannabis manufacturers, advising consumers to avoid these products and condemning companies that are profiting off illegal sales of lookalike cannabis items.
Michael Bronstein, president of the American Trade Association for Cannabis and Hemp, said the “illicit production of cannabis products outside of a regulated setting poses a threat to public health and safety, and the marketing of these products to children in look-alike packaging requires swift and immediate action.
“We commend attorneys general from around the country for raising awareness on this issue,” Bronstein said, “and reiterate to the general public that cannabis products containing THC and intended for adult-use consumption should only be purchased from state licensed businesses, where consumers can verify the source and origin of the active ingredients and confirm that the product has passed state required testing protocols.”
This piece is part of a content-sharing arrangement between The News Station and Marijuana Moment.