October 7, 2021
Halloween is a time for frights and scares of all sorts. With children across the nation knocking on strangers’ doors asking for candy in the middle of the night, concerned parents often imagine the worst-case scenarios happening to their poor offspring. One such evergreen scenario is a malicious person sneaking something harmful into an unwitting kid’s candy.
News stories warn parents to check their children’s candy for sharp objects or, more recently, for cannabis edibles. But do these stories hold any water? Or are they simply urban legends perpetuated by overly fearful parents and the media?
According to our research, the hysteria surrounding altered Halloween candy emerged in the 1970s. On the night of Halloween 1974, Ronald O'Bryan took his two children trick-or-treating in a neighborhood in Pasadena, Texas. After returning home that night, Ronald’s eight-year-old son Timothy asked if he could eat one of his Halloween candies before going to bed. His parents said yes, and little Timothy chose a Pixy Stix. However, upon tasting the powdered candy, Timothy complained about a foul taste in his mouth. Before long, he was in the family’s bathroom vomiting and convulsing on the floor. Timothy O’Bryan died on route to the hospital that night.
This story was quickly picked up by the local—and soon, national—news and created mass hysteria. Parents dumped out their children’s Halloween candy and some municipalities began considering banning trick or treating all together. Ronald insisted that his son had gotten the Pixy Stick from a neighbor. It wasn’t until an autopsy of Timothy’s body revealed enough cyanide in his system to kill two full grown adults that the police began finding other inconsistencies in his story.
Before long, authorities discovered that Ronald O’Bryan was over $100,000 in debt and was unable to hold down a steady job for ten years. His car was about to be repossessed while his home was undergoing foreclosure proceedings. Authorities also uncovered that Ronald had taken out several life insurance policies totaling close to $60,000 on his children. Ronald had also visited a chemical supply store prior to Halloween that year.
After learning about these facts, authorities indicted O’Bryan on one count of capital murder and four counts of attempted murder. O'Bryan was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death. He died by lethal injection March 31, 1984.
However, this was only the beginning of the poisoned candy hysteria. O’Bryan became “the man who killed Halloween,” as many municipalities began banning trick or treating the following year to avoid a copycat. This fear proliferated through the media, making adulterated candies an unfortunate mainstay of the Halloween holiday.
In modern times, most of the concerns around altered Halloween candy involve cannabis. But how likely is it to happen? When you consider the facts, not very.
For starters, the cost would be prohibitively high—no pun intended. Most licensed dispensaries will sell a ten-piece bag of gummies for $15 to $20 ($1.5 to $2 per gummy). Furthermore, most cannabis edibles are not individually wrapped. Someone hoping to drug unsuspecting children’s Halloween candy would have to take the time, money, and effort to individually wrap these edibles in convincing packaging. Legal cannabis edibles also cannot be manufactured to look like real candy and must come in childproof packaging.
Even if someone were to make their own edibles to hand out, this would still take a significant amount of time, money, and effort—more so than simply buying them from a dispensary.
All of these factors make it highly unlikely that some malicious actor would actually hand out cannabis edibles to children on Halloween.
Accidents do happen. Stories of children consuming their parents’ or siblings’ edibles do exist, but this is usually due to negligence on the part of the adults. Parents should still look after their children on Halloween and teach them what to be on the lookout for.
Ultimately, the fears surrounding altered Halloween candy, though grounded in a shred of truth, are mostly based on the hysteria and paranoia of the media and over concerned parents. So have fun this Halloween, let the frights come from scary movies, and stay safe from overindulgence in candy—be it cannabis infused or not.
Trying to have a fun Halloween this year? Make sure to check out our fall product guide to find all our recommended goodies to keep your holidays exciting!