Drug Law

Congress Saving Kids From "Mythical" Candy-Flavored Drugs

| by Reason Foundation

By Jacob Sullum

The Saving Kids From Dangerous Drugs Act, introduced by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) to fight the apparently mythical menace of candy-flavored methamphetamine, has undergone a

noteworthy change. The version (PDF) introduced last January doubled sentences for drug offenders who "knowingly or intentionally manufacture, create, distribute, dispense, or possess with intent to manufacture, create, distribute, or dispense, a controlled substance listed in schedule I or II that is a) combined with a candy product; b) marketed or packaged to appear similar to a candy product; or c) modified by flavoring or coloring the controlled substance with the intent to distribute, dispense, or sell the controlled substance to a person under 21 years of age" (emphasis added).

Under that bill, medical marijuana distributors who sell cannabis-infused candies (a popular way of consuming the drug without smoking) to adult patients would have been treated like dealers who sell drugs to 10-year-olds. But in the version of the bill that emerged from the Senate Judicary Committee last week, the or has been replaced by an and. This change reduces but does not eliminate the threat to medical marijuana sellers, since some of the patients they supply are younger than 21 and it is unclear how intent would be proven.

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While that amendment shows some sensitivity to the real-world effects of this legislation, the sponsors' ostensible motivation remains absurdly disconnected from reality. Here is how Feinstein and Grassley described their purpose last month:

"This bill sends a strong and clear message to drug dealers—if you target our children by peddling candy-flavored drugs, there will be a heavy price to pay," Senator Feinstein said. "The legislation increases criminal penalties for anyone who markets candy-flavored drugs in an effort to hook our young people."

"New techniques and gimmicks to lure our kids into addiction are around every corner. We must do everything we can to end the practice of purposely altering illegal drugs to make them more appealing to our youth."

"Drug dealers who target children by flavoring drugs to taste like candy have sunk to a new low. These dealers need to know that when you prey on our youth, you risk serious prison time. This legislation should make drug dealers think twice about selling candy flavored drugs to our kids," Senator Grassley said. 

In the world imagined by Feinstein and Grassley, kids do not use drugs because it feels good; they use drugs because it tastes good. Furthermore, they are so repelled by the very notion of using drugs that they have to be tricked into trying them by candy camouflage, after which they are irretrievably hooked and keep coming back for more. This understanding of how people start to use drugs also was reflected in the Texas PTA's credulous propagation of an urban legend about "a new drug known as 'strawberry quick,'" a.k.a. "strawberry meth," that "smells like strawberry" and "is being handed out to kids in school yards." Kids who did not care for strawberry supposedly could also choose from "chocolate, peanut butter, cola, cherry, grape and orange." The Texas PTA breathlessly reported that "kids are ingesting this thinking that it is candy and are being rushed off to the hospital in dire condition." Does this scenario resemble anyone's actual experience with drugs?