Florida’s Nonexistent Pot Halloween Candy Scare
November 1, 2016 (Fault Lines) — Gone are the good old days when police warned parents of the miscreants slipping razor blades into apples and Snickers bars during Halloween. Last week, Orange County, Florida Sheriff Jerry Demings alerted the public of the newest threat to costumed children. Marijuana laced “edibles” are the latest threat to our nation’s trick-or-treating children, despite no evidence such a practice exists now or has ever existed.
“We are certainly concerned about trick-or-treating this year as well,” Demings said. “Even though the potential for the marijuana edibles appearing this year may be somewhat minimal, it is still a threat in our community.”
Why is it a threat to Orange County’s children? If you expected Sheriff Demmings to articulate specific examples or reasonable areas where a parent might worry, then welcome to Fault Lines. It’s good to see you here. As it turns out, Sheriff Demings’ concerns aren’t really about the children. It’s about an issue on which Floridians will vote in November, well after Halloween ends. That issue is Florida’s approval for medicinal cannabis use.
Demings, president of the Florida Sheriffs Association, warned [children could get pot cookies] if Florida voters in November pass Amendment 2, which would legalize medical marijuana…Amendment 2 would make it legal for state-approved doctors to prescribe medical marijuana to patients with debilitating diseases such as cancer, ALS — also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease — and Parkinson’s disease…Even though the amendment won’t be voted on until Nov. 8 — after Halloween — the threat is still there, Demings said. He could not offer examples of children receiving laced Halloween candy in states where medical marijuana is legal. (Emphasis added.)
Sheriff Demings, appearing on behalf of a group called “Don’t Let Florida Go To Pot,” put on a show with local children, attempting to influence Florida voters’ decisions on whether medical marijuana would become legal after Halloween. Demings could offer no proof medical marijuana posed a threat to children. He had no examples where pot cookies and gummy bears adversely affected children in states where marijuana was legal for recreational or medical use. His sole recourse was naming edible marijuana products to create a “scare” for “responsible parents.”
The group said people in other states are putting edible marijuana in packages that look appealing to children and calling it names similar to legitimate products — “Pot Tarts” instead of Pop Tarts, or “Nugella” instead of Nutella.
“It looks like any other candy,” Demings said. “Sometimes there’s just mean-spirited people who infuse these type of products into our society to create confusion and injure our children and other people.”
Osceola County Sheriff Bob Hansell also said the packaging was disturbing.
“Who else are they advertising for other than people who like to eat a lot of candy? And who eats a lot of candy? Children,” Hansell said at the news conference.
Keep in mind neither Sheriff Demings nor Hansell could offer a single instance where a child was harmed as a result of receiving a marijuana edible as a Halloween treat. Their only evidence of this new alleged “scare” was a conflation between products marketed to adults using cannabis for medical or recreational purposes and mean-spirited “parents” wanting to get your children high on All Hallow’s Eve. The press conference about the bad people giving your children pot was nothing more than a series of scare tactics motivated by an anti-marijuana political group.
The next question is whether Sheriff Demings or Hansell will face repercussions as a result of their PR stunt blaming the devil marihuana as the latest Halloween scourge. In this case, Garcetti v. Ceballos would likely apply, as both appeared in their official law enforcement capacities, on behalf of a group targeting a political initiative bringing medical marijuana to Florida. However, one would be hard pressed to find an individual who has standing to sue either, or bring a claim for violation of rights, since as of this post no one was harmed by the expression of Sheriff Demings’ and Hansell’s paid for political expressions of speech. Without injury, it’s hard to determine where fault lies.
The lesson to take away from Florida and the elaborate stunt coordinated by two Sheriffs and an anti-marijuana group is a simple one, albeit disturbing. As long as there are people who want to oppose decriminalization of a drug, there will be people ready and willing to “weaponize,” or use as ammunition, children, in furtherance of their goals. Just like with the hoax of razor blades in Halloween candy, it is the job of the parent to determine what candy their children ingest on Halloween and what could potentially be dangerous.
At the same time, responsibility lies with parents to determine what is a real threat to their children and what is a hoax perpetuated by bogeymen ready to take away parents’ lives, liberty, and property to further any agenda. In a world where “worst-first” thinking is commonplace among parents, that may be the scariest Halloween story of them all.