Officials warn of cannabis edibles that look like Halloween treats

Attorneys general in several states issued warnings this week about cannabis products that look like normal snacks and candy. The warnings come amid a national trend of children accidentally consuming them and just days before Halloween.

“These look-alike cannabis products are unregulated, unsafe, and illegal,” Connecticut Attorney General William Tong said in a statement. “Accidental cannabis overdoses by children are increasing nationwide, and these products will only make this worse.”

Tong cited a report from the American Association of Poison Control which said poison control hotlines received about 2,622 calls for young children who consumed cannabis products in the first half of 2021. And in the first nine months of 2020, 80% of calls to the Poison Control Center were related to pediatric exposure to marijuana edibles.

New York Attorney General Letitia James said the cannabis edibles are “deceptively designed” to resemble standard treats. Instead, they contain high levels of cannabis and tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC, which is the main compound found in marijuana.

“Accidental cannabis overdoses by children are increasing nationwide, and these look-alike products will only exacerbate the danger by appealing to children and youth,” said Kwame Raoul, the Illinois attorney general. 

Connecticut, New York and Illinois have legalized the adult recreational use of certain amounts of cannabis. Under Connecticut law, cannabis products cannot be sold under a brand name that is identical to or similar to an existing non-cannabis product. A single adult serving size for cannabis edibles under the state statute contains five milligrams of THC, and a multiple-serving package for cannabis edibles cannot contain more than 100 milligrams of total THC. 

The state attorneys general allege some of the replicate snacks containing cannabis exceed even the maximum legal adult serving. “If a child were to eat the entire bag, he or she would be consuming 120 times the maximum legal adult serving,” Tong said in reference to a cannabis snack that resembled Cheetos and contained 600 milligrams of THC. 

New York State Attorney General
Photos of the replicate snacks containing cannabis. New York State Attorney General

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says edibles containing marijuana have a greater risk of poisoning people and can lead to serious injury, cause longer-lasting intoxicating effects and be unpredictable. THC from edibles can make children children “very sick,” and in certain instances require emergency room visits or hospitalization, the agency said. 

In Ohio, Attorney General Dave Yost said those responsible for dispersing the illegal edibles in proximity to children “should reconsider how they choose to make profits.” Marijuana can only legally be sold in Ohio for medical reasons.

Despite the timing of the warnings, some experts say it’s unlikely that these cannabis products will end up in children’s treat-or-treat baskets. One reason: the high cost of cannabis edibles. 

“From an economics perspective, it makes absolutely no sense that someone would go out there and spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars on marijuana edibles just to give them to kids who then walk away and they never see again,” Erik Altieri, executive director of the advocacy group NORML, told CBS affiliate KYTX.

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