Doctors, Drug Enforcement Agencies and health officials are warning parents to check their kids trick-or-treat hauls for drug-laced candies this Halloween.
With marijuana now legal for medical use in 30 US states and for recreation in nine, more people are finding more clever ways to consume the drug – like in gummies, chocolates and suckers.
At least one California doctor has issued a warning to parents there that pot candies could easily end up in their kids trick-or-treat baskets.
Meanwhile, the St Louis Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is cautioning parents about look-alike marijuana and meth candies – with names like ‘Rasta Reese’s’ – that have been spotted in Missouri, Kansas and Illinois.
The St Louis DEA is warning parents to check their kids’ Halloween candy as weed- and meth-laced sweets with deceiving names (pictured) have surged in the Midwest
Dispensaries and the marijuana industry insist that the problem is being blown far out of proportion – but health officials say its better to be safe than sorry.
Adults can now enjoy weed in any form they want, in any time they want, for recreational use in nine states and Washington, DC.
That’s meant an explosion of the cannabis industry at large, and edibles in particular.
In California alone, edible marijuana was a $180 billion business last year, and sales of treats have tripled and doubled in other states where the drug has been legalized.
But as business has boomed for marijuana growers and retailers, related accidents and emergency room visits have too.
There has been a particularly alarming rise in teenagers and children winding up in the hospital after consuming some form of weed – whether intentionally or not.
Nationally, the most recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data suggests that marijuana-related ER visits increased by more than 60 percent between 2005 and 2011.
EDIBLE MARIJUANA IS SAFER BUT COULD GIVE YOU A LONGER, STRONGER HIGH THAN SMOKING IT
Though they come from the same plant, each marijuana product reacts differently in the body based on how it is heated.
Smoking marijuana heats it to nearly 1,500 degrees Farenheit.
At this temperature, the burning plant releases carcinogens (though far fewer than come from a cigarette) and smoke that constricts blood vessels and can damage the lungs.
The heat also changes the psychoactive component of the plant, THC, from THCA to Delta-9THC.
This new form of THC makes its way to receptors in the brain within five to 10 minutes, typically. The effects fade within 60 to 120 minutes.
Weed edibles are made by dissolving THC into a fatty substance, typically oil or butter, and cooking the snack at about 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
At that temperature, both Delta-9THC and another psychoactive compound are released.
The result is a less carcinogenic, but more potent drug.
The food has to be processed by the liver, an extra step that delays the onset of a high, which makes it hard to control.
Edibles’ second psychotropic compound, 11-OH-THC is strong and slips easily through the blood-brain barrier.
The body also keeps metabolizing the edible, making the effects of THC last far longer – sometimes as long as 10 hours.
Data from Colorado is perhaps the most telling (and certainly most studied, thus far) measure of how many young people are visiting the ER after cannabis consumption.
There, nearly 40 percent more people between 13- and 20-years-old had to go to the ER for marijuana-related concerns in 2015 than had a decade prior.
And in California, there has been an increase in ER visits specific to edibles among adults, teens and toddlers alike.
In light of these concerns, Dr Roneet Lev, who heads up the Scripps Mercy Hospital emergency department told the San Diego Tribune that she sees accidental marijuana consumption cases in her ER ‘on a regular basis.’
‘It would be hard to tell [if candy was marijuana-infused]. Some of the advertisements and packaging are very deceiving,’ she said.
That’s exactly the problem facing parents and law enforcement officials in parts of the US – particularly the Midwest.
Special Agent in Charge of the St Louis division of the DEA (which covers Kansas, Missouri and Illionois) issued a warning about an uptick in meth- and marijuana-laced candies in his jurisdiction.
The treats are disguised with wrappers and names that closely and comically mimic real sweets.
With names like ‘Twixed,’ ‘KeefKat,’ and ‘Munchy Way,’ the candies could easily be mistaken for kids’ treats.
Eating them accidentally could lead to sudden heart rate increases, feelings of panic and other complications, depending on what drugs were in the candies, and in what concentrations.
‘Marijuana-laced or Methamphetamine-laced candies can go undetected, but have harmful effects on our children if ingested,’ Callahan told KSDK.
‘Halloween is a time for kids to be kids and have fun with family and friends. We don’t want anyone falling prey to an avoidable tragedy.
Please check your candy closely. If you come across any suspicious treats that have unusual wrapping or misspelled candy labels give it to your local police department.’