Cannabis candies found in children's Halloween treats, Winnipeg police say

Jocelyn Cordeiro says her daughter found a package of cannabis candy in her Halloween bag on Monday. (Jérémie Bergeron/Radio-Canada - image credit)
Jocelyn Cordeiro says her daughter found a package of cannabis candy in her Halloween bag on Monday. (Jérémie Bergeron/Radio-Canada - image credit)

Police are warning Winnipeg parents to check their children's Halloween treats after at least half a dozen reports of highly potent cannabis edibles in brightly coloured packing being handed out to kids on Monday.

The cannabis edibles were discovered in children's Halloween bags after trick-or-treating in the Tuxedo neighbourhood, and were packaged to look like the popular Nerds candy, police say.

Jocelyn Cordeiro was shocked when her nine-year-old daughter found one of the packages in her treats Monday night, calling the incident "horrifying."

"She picked it up and looked at it and then she said, 'Sixty-minute activation time — what does that mean?'" Cordeiro said on Tuesday. "It would not have drawn my attention if she hadn't read it.… It just looked like a package of candy."

Cordeiro quickly texted the parents of other kids her daughter went trick-or-treating with. All of them agreed to contact the police about the THC candies, she said.

She cried when she thought of what would have happened if her daughter had eaten the candy.

"I would have watched her eat it, and not even thought a second about it, because the packaging was not at all suspicious."

Cordeiro also posted her findings on social media to warn other parents.

The packages say they contain 600 milligrams of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the main psychoactive property of marijuana. Canada's maximum THC amount for edibles is 10 milligrams per package.

Police said they had at least half a dozen reports about the edibles, which were found inside zipped sandwich bags along with full-size chocolate bars.

All of the reports so far have come from a small area in south Tuxedo, said Winnipeg police Const. Dani McKinnon. THC can be dangerous for children, but no children were harmed, she said.

A child in Richmond, B.C., was treated in hospital after eating the same type of candy on Monday, RCMP there said. She was later released.

Mounties said the B.C. incident appeared to be an isolated one. While they said they hoped it wasn't intentional, B.C. police said they still wanted to issue a public warning to parents there to check their kids' Halloween candy.

The Winnipeg incident is also a good reminder to check kids' candy, no matter what age the child is, said McKinnon.

Schools have also been made aware of the edibles, she said, and police have started knocking on doors in the affected neighbourhood.

Drug testing will be done, but the candies will be treated as THC edibles until that's complete, said McKinnon.

As she dropped her daughter off at school on Tuesday morning, Cordeiro found out several kids in the area had also received the candies.

She'll be looking through her children's Halloween bags much more closely next year, she said.

'Not sold in Canada'

Police did not comment on possible motives, and said they aren't sure what charges might be laid in the case.

Finn Makela, a law professor at the University of Sherbrooke in Quebec, said Canada's Cannabis Act requires the drug to be accessed either through an authorized reseller, or by growing it at home (up to four plants can be grown for personal use in most provinces, but not in Manitoba).

"As soon as you have a cannabis product that wasn't purchased or grown … then you're in possession of illegal cannabis, which is itself an offence," he told Radio-Canada on Tuesday.

Elements of the packaging found in the treat bags don't follow requirements of the Cannabis Act, he said.

 Jérémie Bergeron/Radio-Canada
Jérémie Bergeron/Radio-Canada

It doesn't include the red cannabis logo or a warning about the effects of THC, as required by Health Canada. Bilingual text and information about the amount of cannabidiol (CBD) or how much THC/CBD is in each serving are also missing.

"That leads me to believe that [the edibles were] not legally sold in Canada."

Plain packaging and labels are also required for all cannabis products sold in Canada, according to Health Canada's website. Fluorescent-coloured packaging, like the package Cordeiro's daughter found, cannot be sold in stores.

Jérémie Bergeron/Radio-Canada
Jérémie Bergeron/Radio-Canada

Several offences under the Criminal Code, including distributing cannabis to minors, may have been committed if the candies were intentionally given to children on Halloween night, Makela said.

If the person responsible unknowingly handed out the candies, then it could constitute criminal negligence, he said.

If there turns out to be no THC in the candies, then the person responsible could be charged with mischief.

"We don't know what the state of mind of the person who distributed it."

Winnipeg police have asked anyone with information, or who received the cannabis candies, to contact the major crimes unit at 204-986-6219.

They also said people should try not to handle the packaging if they discover these candies, but should call police and put the package somewhere safe until it's collected.