Growing up in the 80s, one of the most frustrating but mandatory Halloween rituals was dumping out my bag of candy for inspection. Up until I was a teenager, I was strictly forbidden to eat a single piece until my mother searched my candy thoroughly.
The reason, my mother said, was so that she could make sure that all the wrappers were sealed, and the candy wasn’t tampered with. Ironically, the only candy she confiscated as suspect were Smarties. Which happened to be her favorite.
My big brother told me we had to check the candy for poison or razor blades. Because big brothers are jerks. As if there weren’t enough scary things on Halloween for a little kid, I also had to worry about my neighbors trying to poison me or cut my tongue off. I couldn’t imagine why they would want to hurt me. Although to be completely fair, I did talk a lot, so impairing my ability to waggle my tongue so much did make a little sense.
The candy tampering that haunted my childhood turned out to be an urban legend, not reality, but the psychological impact was real. In my head, there were real monsters in the form of people who were really trying to hurt little kids out trick or treating.
Cut to the present
Now it’s not razor blades or poison, but drugs. If you were to believe the social media and some law enforcement warnings, what parents really need to be looking for in their kid’s Halloween candy is drugs.
There are only two reasons I can think of for why someone would want to drug kids on Halloween. The first is that they are trying to hook kids on drugs in order to gain new addicts and customers. I’m very skeptical as to how this would actually work though. Wouldn’t the drug pusher need to follow up with these now-child-addicts to sell them more drugs? And how much weed or opioids is a kindergartener going to actually buy anyway?
The second reason I can think of to drug a trick-or-treater is just for kicks. Which is vile, but also seems just as unlikely as a person trying to gain new drug customers in trick-or-treaters. There is also exactly no evidence of this happening. With the awful exception of a father who intentionally poisoned his own son.
Parental fear short circuits critical thinking.
Scaring the crap out of parents is a particularly effective way to spread misinformation and get lots of clicks, shares and views. The spreaders of the QAnon conspiracies know this well. After all, who doesn’t want to Save the Children?
There is a long history of fear-mongering about tainted Halloween candy. The stories are vastly exaggerated or totally fabricated hoaxes and urban legends.
These stories have been used as political fodder to continue the taxpayer-funded war on drugs. Rainbow Fentanyl is the latest iteration of this device. Despite the scant or nonexistence evidence that drug dealers are targeting children in this way.
I can’t think of a single reason to lace a kid’s candy with weed. Potheads are almost certainly reserving their weed for themselves. If anything, they may just eat all the candy before they can hand it out.
The idea that somehow these drug dealers are going to accidentally mix in their brightly-colored fentanyl pills with the candy they are going to hand out for Halloween is equally ridiculous.
There is a real danger to kids out for free candy on Halloween, however. Pedestrian injuries and deaths on Halloween are statistically higher after dark. Lights on their costumes and adult supervision can reduce the risk.
When it comes to Halloween candy, there’s not much to fear. Although, when it comes to my own son’s treat bag. I inspect it thoroughly, just to make sure there is no suspect candy. I usually find at least one or two peanut butter cups that I have to confiscate out of an abundance of caution.
In yet another spooky coincidence, peanut butter cups happen to my favorite.