Should You Be Worried About Drug-Laced Halloween Candy?

We're NOT saying it can't happen, but a look at history definitely makes us skeptical.

Since marijuana is legal now in Colorado, and pot shops are selling pot cakes like hot cakes, Denver Police posted a spooky PSA warning citizens about the risk of kids accidentally eating edible marijuana candies. Dispensaries have started selling weed candies that look and smell indistinct from real candies, and young trick-or-treaters could accidentally eat massive doses of THC, potentially leaving them sick, hospitalized, or at the very least, wanting to chow down on all the rest of their candy.

OK, but we've been to this dance before. The myth of poisoned or drugged Halloween candy has been going around at this time of year since at least the '60s. Before marijuana candies, Americans have been scared of everything from heroin to metal shards in their kids' sugary loot. But believe it or not, there's never been a proven case of some rando madman intentionally poisoning rando trick-or-treaters. In fact, children are more likely to be poisoned by a family member than a stranger around Halloween.

Joel Best, a sociology professor who's been studying the "Halloween sadism" myth for decades, believes that the risk of trick-or-treaters eating edibles could be different. "I have always been skeptical of claims that maniacs try to poison kids' treats. Why would they do that? However, I think Colorado treats might deserve more careful treatment, just because infused candy might be given out by mistake." Considering that stoners are pretty good at doing stuff "by mistake," Best might have a point.

However, the Denver Police's advice--don't accept any candy that's not factory-wrapped--happens to be the same advice authorities have been telling kids since these panicky hoaxes first started to spread. While we don't want to say that there won't be any marijuana-poisonings this Halloween, a look back through history definitely makes us a bit skeptical.

Helen Pfeil's poison candy prank backfires on America

In 1964, the 47-year-old Long Island housewife decided that it'd be a good idea to play a practical joke on kids she deemed too old to be trick-or-treating on Halloween. So what'd she do? When older kids came to her door, candy bag agape, she would ask, "Aren't you a little old for this?" then she'd drop a poisonous ant trap wrapped in a napkin into the bag. The napkin was clearly marked poison, but it didn't matter. Parents freaked out, so cops freaked out, so she was arrested. Nobody was hurt, and the judge decided she wasn't crazy enough to throw in prison, but many people believe this prank was what catalyzed all the ensuing Halloween candy panic.

Kevin Toston's family is way scarier than any ghost or goblin

During Halloween season in 1970, the five-year-old Detroit boy happened to find his uncle's heroin stash, proceeded to eat it and, sadly, died of an accidental overdose. Rather than admit their negligence and implicate the uncle, Kevin's parents opted to sprinkle some heroin on his leftover Halloween candy and attempted to blame it on a stranger. Even though this was quickly disproven, it helped ruin the innocence around Halloween trick-or-treating.

Ronald Clark O'Bryan laps Kevin Toston's parents in Horrific Parents Race

This monster poisoned his own son Timothy's Pixie Stix with cyanide in order to collect $20,000 in life insurance money in 1974. To cover his tracks, he also gave out poisoned Pixie Stix to his daughter and three other kids. Luckily, none of them ate it. O'Bryan was executed by lethal injection 10 years later.

A kid's stomachache is blamed on poisoned Halloween candy

In 1982, a child got really sick after Halloween, and when a doctor misread the kid's lab results as cyanide poisoning, they immediately pointed the finger at poisoned Halloween candy. What followed was a good helping of panic until the FDA proved that no candy poisoning took place at all. Even though every case of random poisoning before this had been disproven, people still naturally blamed it on random poisoning. There are two important lessons here. First, doctors can be wrong. Second, people can be sheep.

A three-year old gets poisoned by cocaine after Halloween

In 1994, a Connecticut boy went to the hospital because of cocaine poisoning, and doctored Halloween candy was obviously the culprit. No one thought to first blame the family even though, you know, the only other time a kid died eating hard drugs on Halloween was when he broke into his uncle's heroin stash. When the wrapper of the leftover candy was tested, no cocaine residue was found.

A girl dies of a powerful bacterial infection, Halloween candy blamed anyway

In 2001, Tiffaney Troung, a four-year-old girl from British Columbia, died of a "non-contagious sepsis-causing streptococcus bacteria" according to That's a horrible way to go, and children tend to be quite vulnerable to septic shock. But wait, the day before she died, she had eaten Halloween candy, so it had to be the Halloween candy, right? Surely the police wouldn't report her death as yet another (unsubstantiated) candy poisoning. Nope, they did, warning every parent in town to toss the rest of their kids' candy hauls.

Candy Myth Timeline

Latest News