The Mass Media: Decades of Trying to Ruin Halloween

When I was a kid growing up in the Midwest in the 1980s, Halloween was something out of a Norman Rockwell painting. Giggling children running down the street dressed as goblins and ghouls, excitedly ringing the doorbell and anxiously holding out pillow cases to collect their bounty. After lugging home a full bag of candy and pouring it out on the living room floor, my brother and I would begin the trading game, Three Musketeers for some M&M's, then my dad would come by and steal all of our Snickers. But, in all the fun and games, no one dared give out an apple, and if one appeared in our pillow case, my mom would treat it as if it were a live grenade. Why would we gobble up our weight in sugar but quickly cast aside a piece of fruit? Because it might have a razor blade in it don't you know!

Any adult who grew up in the 1960s remembers the dire warnings that would appear on shows from 60 Minutes and Nightline, to the local news. Perhaps fueled by the imagery of Snow White accepting the poisoned apple from the evil queen, stories about the reality of evil people sneaking poison or razor blades into apples and giving them to children on Halloween became a regular media occurrence come October. While there have been a few random cases of indoctrinated Halloween candy given out by strangers (and no fatalities), most of the claims around razors and poisonings have turned out to be hoaxes. But that has not stopped the media from fanning the flames that this is a very real threat to our nation's youth. If Halloween is a time to play on the fears hidden inside all of us, then the media has decided that tainted food is its version of the Headless Horseman.

Now, as we again approach the witching hour, the media has come through with a new and improved scary story for the parents of 2014: marijuana tainted Halloween candy. While not as scary in a blood and guts kind of way as razors, the idea that candy given to children might contain marijuana has every news outlet from the New York Times to Forbes, CBS and ABC asking us to gather around the campfire while they tell us a tale. It's fairly easy to see why they chose marijuana for their food taint d'jour, marijuana legalization is new, and many people around the country are talking about it. In these days of the fight for "clickable" headlines, news outlets are pandering more than ever. But, regardless of the shape it takes, this is just the same old fashioned fear mongering we have seen come October every year since the 1960s. And the solution to the problem (real or imagined) is the same today as it was back then.

  1. No Halloween candy, cookies, brownies, drinks, etc., should be ingested unless they are in a sealed package.
  2. No Halloween candy, cookies, brownies, drinks, etc., should be ingested if they have a wrapper that says it contains marijuana (and they all do).
  3. If kids bring home apples or other fruit, throw it away, or cut it up before they eat it if you are worried about razors (they have not figured out a way to infuse whole fruit with marijuana)

Yes, it's that simple. So while the media might present the marijuana Halloween candy story as a gigantic beast with wild eyes and a sharp tail lurking in your closet, if you turn the light on, you will see it's just a pile of clothes on the closet floor. Happy Halloween!