September 26th, 2021


Don't Swallow This New Halloween Fear

Lenore Skenazy

By Lenore Skenazy

Published Oct. 30, 2020

Don't Swallow This New Halloween Fear
Want your brain sucked out by zombies? Yahoo is happy to oblige. Its homepage today screams: "Beware of marijuana edibles in your kids' Halloween stash, police warn: 'Not everything is as it seems.'"

"Not everything" includes Yahoo parenting stories based on nothing more than fear and clickbait.

Do parents really have to worry about edibles in their kids Halloween stash? Yahoo mentions one 2019 case of two Connecticut kids given a package of gummies who didn't eat them.

Two kids in a country of about 40 million children ages 10 and under. Even the local cops said they didn't believe this to be a "wide spread problem."

That's because there's just no upside to anyone giving away expensive edibles. Even if you're the type (if there is a type) who thinks, "It would be so hilarious to see a baked Baby Yoda!" you wouldn't bother giving some random kid cannabis, because you won't be around for the fun. It's like paying to see a Broadway show and leaving before the curtain goes up.

Ah, but the absence of a danger is no reason not to scare parents! So, the Yahoo story goes on to describe what would happen if your kid DID overdose on edibles and end up in intensive care:

Jamie Alan, an assistant professor of pharmacology and toxicology at Michigan State University, tells Yahoo Life: "There is a range of symptoms, from loss of coordination and being unbalanced to sleepiness to trouble breathing. In severe cases, children can become unconscious and need ventilator support."

Talk about masterful fearmongering. In just a few paragraphs, we've leapt to breathing troubles! Ventilators! Bravo, Yahoo. Maybe you aren't about to go the way of AOL!

The report also quotes Alexandra Funk, director of Central Ohio Poison Control at Nationwide Children's Hospital — yes, Nationwide, the same insurance company that showed us a dead child during the 2015 Super Bowl. (Nothing if not consistent!) Funk talks about the high levels of THC in gummies and how, sometimes, the packaging is easy to mistake for candy.

This is true. That's why sometimes kids DO accidentally eat edibles. Where do they get these? A 2016 study in JAMA Pediatrics found the not-very-surprising sources: parents and other family members.

Not fiendish neighbors.

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The study also compared kids' "marijuana-related" hospital visits two years before pot was legalized in Colorado and two years after. Sure enough, the kid visits went up — from 1.2 per 100,000 to 2.3 per 100,000. A big leap — but still a tiny number.

As usual, the Halloween advice given by the authorities seems harmless. Indiana State Police spokesman Ron Galaviz is quoted saying, "Just take an extra moment to inspect your child's candy, maybe more than you normally would."

But in fact, that's not harmless advice. First of all, it normalizes the idea that of course you were going to inspect your child's candy — that this is a necessary precaution every good parent takes on Halloween. Which in itself reinforces the idea that there's enough poisoning going on that parents should never just assume their kids' candy is untainted — even though candy poisoning is an urban myth.

Then it adds this new layer of worry: "Take an EXTRA moment to inspect ... "

This is how helicopter parenting colonizes a culture. Good parents are exhorted to focus on some new danger, no matter how remote, which then necessitates more oversight. Instead of seeing kids as basically capable and safe, they're seen as puffballs in need of protection.

Trust your kids to do something independent like trick-or-treat, happily eating some candy along the way?


If you don't mind them ending up on ventilators.