Halloween is still months away. But in Charleston, West Virginia, U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart says Trick or Treat will never be the same. On Thursday, Stuart’s office in the Southern District of West Virginia issued a public health alert about THC-infused edibles. The alert warns about cannabis edibles that look like normal candy, saying they pose a potential hazard to kids. The alert stems from a June 15 drug interdiction that intercepted 7.5 pounds of cannabis-infused candy traveling through Kentucky. The statement issued by the prosecutor’s office provides an image comparing the intercepted edibles to the popular Nerds Rope candy.
US Attorney Says THC Candy is “All Trick and No Treat”
United States Attorney Mike Stuart is warning the West Virginia public that THC-infused edibles are being packaged in a manner that is appealing to kids. The public health alert comes just days after members of an Appalachia High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (AHIDTA) task force intercepted a parcel containing several pounds of marijuana edibles. In a bulletin announcing the seizure, AHIDTA stated that the parcel had originated in Mill Valley, California and was on its way to Coconut Creek, Florida when the task force intercepted it in Kentucky.
The edibles in question closely resemble the brand packaging of normal Nerds Rope candy. But the AHIDTA bulletin acknowledges that the THC-infused candy had clear warnings to keep out of the reach of children and animals. The packages also display California’s THC warning badge and large lettering indicating the quantity of THC in the package—400 mg per rope. Above the word Nerds on the cannabis-infused version, block letters spell out “Medical.”
Despite these warnings and labels, however, the HIDTA bulletin says the edibles’ packaging uses colors, shapes and promotional characters that make them appear similar to the commercial version of the candy. The bulletin then cites a 2016 University of Washington study on the factors that attract children to edibles packages. The research details that the colors red, orange, yellow and green were most attractive to children. The THC-infused Nerds Rope packages contained all those colors, as well as “festive writing” and common naming conventions. The result, HIDTA says, is a product that is highly appealing to children and youths.
“This fake ‘candy’ is all trick and no treat,” said U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart. “It is packaged like candy. It looks like popular candy, tastes like candy. But, instead, it is a very powerful and potent way to get high.”
Parents Urged to Inspect All Candy for THC
“High-potency” edibles are increasingly coming under attack by law enforcement and public health officials for the perceived threat they pose to young people. U.S. Attorney Stuart’s public health alert hits familiar notes. “Any unsuspecting child or teenager could easily stumble along a package and innocently et it not realizing the potency of the THC infused in the product,” Stuart’s office said in the alert. “The average marijuana joint contains 0.3 grams of THC. This fake “candy” contains nearly 35 percent more THC than an entire average joint. It is outrageous that this powerful drug is marketed to children,” the statement continues. But states that have legalized retail cannabis products like edibles all have regulations that prohibit packages children might find appealing.
But some of the traits of the intercepted edibles suggest they were manufactured before California revised its rules for marijuana packaging. When those regulations took effect, they instructed retailers to destroy non-compliant products. But instead of the incinerator, many products ended up on illicit distribution networks. It’s therefore possible that so-called black market diversion sent these “Medical” Nerds Ropes with THC on their way to Florida.
So states are trying to do something about THC products that could appeal to children. But U.S. attorney Stuart’s office says parents will have to pick up the slack. “Parenting is challenging enough without having to check a child’s candy for potent levels of THC. This just means parents will have to work double duty on Halloween.”