By Jacob Sullum
The Associated Pressreports that Buffalo politicians are outraged by marijuana-themed candy sold in local stores. The products, which include Pothead Lollipops and Pothead Sour Gummy Candy, do not contain cannabis, but they do contain subversive ideas, which may be even worse:
"We're already dealing with a high amount of drug abuse and drug activity and trying to raise children so they don't think using illegal substances is acceptable," said City Councilmember Darius Pridgen. "So to have a licensed store sell candy to kids that depicts an illegal substance is just ignorant and irresponsible."
Why did Pridgen mention that the stores are licensed? Here's why:
Pridgen and Councilmember Demone Smith displayed the candy, along with fake marijuana known as "K2" that's also sold in some stores, at Tuesday's Common Council meeting, where Pridgen said he'd refuse to grant licenses to stores in his district that planned to sell the merchandise and would seek to embarrass stores that carry it.
A spokesman for the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy validates Pridgen and Smith's concern, declaring the "Legalize" message communicated by the candy and its packaging "a threat to public health because it erodes perceptions of harm among young people." It also happens to be political speech protected by the First Amendment, something no one in the A.P. story bothers to mention. Criticizing the candy is one thing, but refusing to license retailers who plan to sell it crosses the line between debate and censorship.
So do bans on marijuana-flavored (but nonpsychoactive) lollipops, which I discussed in a 2007 column. In my 2009 Reason article "Bongs Away!," I argued that bans on drug paraphernalia likewise are best understood as attempts to suppress an offensive message.