ALAMEDA - It was a Halloween scare that parents never imagined they'd face, after attending a "Trunk or Treat" event at Alameda's Amelia Earhart Elementary School on Sunday.
"I think none of us expected that something like this could happen," said Beth Meloy, a parent who attended with her child, "It was a great event. Everyone had a good time. There were a lot of family volunteers handing out candy from their trunks."
Early Monday morning, however, one family called the school. Their child had become sick after eating what they thought was a regular piece of candy.
"Their parents checked the candy that the student received at the event and found the wrapper which says right on it that it's cannabis infused," said Susan Davis, the senior manager for community affairs for the Alameda Unified School District.
The square candies with a blue wrapper were labeled as Lost Farm Cannabis-Infused Fruit Chews and resemble Starburst candies in shape and size.
The school principal, the PTA which sponsored the event, and the Alameda School District immediately took action, putting out email alerts with photos of the cannabis candy and making phone calls to all parents.
"We urge all families to sort through their child's candy generally this week," said Davis, in the warning note to parents. "Please know that we are working quickly to determine the source of this candy and if other children received it."
"We got emails from both the PTA and principal and phone calls from everyone," said Angel LaCour, an Alameda parent.
Beth Meloy says when she saw the photo of the cannabis candy, she checked her own child's candy pile, and that's when she saw that they also had received one of the cannabis fruit chews.
"It looked like a standalone Starburst," said Meloy, "I would never have looked had I not gotten those emails and phone calls and it prevented my child from eating something that could have been really dangerous for him."
By afternoon, four families at the Earhart Elementary School had found the cannabis product mixed in with the candy.
"Cannabis-infused candy can look a lot like real candy, so it's really important for parents to check the candy this year," said Davis.
The school district alerted Alameda Police who began investigating and posted a warning on the police department's Facebook page with photographs showing examples of regular candy side-by-side with cannabis products that are made to look similar.
"So far we have done some interviews with different staff members people who were at the event." said Alameda Police Chief Nishant Joshi, "Our goal is to figure out how this occurred and whether there was malicious intent, was it an accident and how can we prevent this from happening again."
With Halloween on Tuesday, police are calling on parents to be extra careful.
"Take a good look at the labeling, the packaging, to see whether the packages are open, read the ingredients, make sure there's nothing that contains cannabis," said Chief Joshi.
The California state legislature addressed the issue this past session, by passing Assembly Bill 1207, authored by assembly member Jacqui Irwin, (D) Thousand Oaks. It would have tightened state restrictions on cannabis marketing to prevent products from using packaging and labeling that resembles candy.
Governor Newsom, however, vetoed the bill. In his remarks, he said:
"While I deeply appreciate and agree with the author's intent, I am concerned that the definition of "attractive to children" used in this bill is overly broad. By prohibiting entire categories of images, this bill would sweep in commonplace designs, and I am not convinced that these additional limits will meaningfully protect children beyond what is required under existing law.
"California must continue to refine and advance its regulation of cannabis to protect the health and safety of children. As such, I am directing the Department of Cannabis Control to strengthen and expand existing youth-related cannabis protections - including measures to enhance enforcement of those protections."
KTVU reached out to the state lawmakers who authored the bill but had not heard back late Monday night.