Another Dopey Halloween Moral Panic

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Your annual hysterical warning about evil monsters slipping dubious substances into trick or treat candy.

Halloween has a long tradition in causing moral panic, be it old school Christian worries about the influence of dark forces unleashed by little kids dressed as witches, or the modern social justice worries about offensive or inappropriate costuming. The longest running of these panics is the fear of the dangerous, perhaps even lethal items being slipped, unnoticed into the candy gifts given out to trick or treaters. Over the years, these threats have ranged from razor blades hidden in apples to various poisons and hallucinogenic drugs slipped into the sweets and AIDS-infected needles secreted into bags of goodies. And while it’s impossible to say that this has never happened, most of these cases turn out to be urban myths based on rumour and mass hysteria, all too often assisted by the media and gullible police forces, as well as Christian propagandists like Jack Chick.

The great thing about this sort of myth is how it can adapt to modern trends. Given the current campaign to demonise vaping, for instance, perhaps we might have expected to see something about e-cigs being dropped into goodie bags; perhaps we might get tht next year. 2019’s fear campaign has instead been based around the current fashion for THC  – the cannabis extract that has taken advantage of weed’s legal status in several US states and other countries. A police force in Pennsylvania – where cannabis remains illegal – has issued a warning about THC-infused Nerd Ropes – a popular form of candy, apparently. The warning came after a seizure of some 394 packages of the sweets during a drugs raid, and was immediately seized on and exaggerated by the press, who put two and two together and came up with evil monsters feeding hallucinogenic candy to kids because why wouldn’t that happen?

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Now, of course, we might say that lacing candy with THC is a foolhardy move if we want to have a responsible attitude to legal drugs – not everything needs to have the stuff in it, for crying out loud, and there have been actual recorded cases of kids picking this stuff up and eating it while their presumably stoned parents lay around not paying attention. It doesn’t seem overly moralistic to suggest that candies for adults shouldn’t be packaged as if they are aimed at kids. But accidental consumption is a world away from evil fiends deliberately slipping it to unsuspecting nippers, and while I guess it’s possible that some feckless stoner would mistakenly give his stash of expensive THC gummies to local trick or treaters, the hysterical headlines do seem to be moral panic personified. Of course, should hundreds of kids turn up at emerency rooms across America on November 1st tripping off their tits, then I’ll stand corrected. But if it does happen, it’ll be the first time one of these Halloween panics has come to life – and perhaps some of the blame should then lie at the feet of a media that has been eagerly pushing the idea for decades. After all, if you spread an idea long and far enough, then someone, somewhere is surely going to eventually think “hey, that sounds a lark, why don’t I do it?”