Not so sweet

Georgia State Senator Vince Fort knows a threat to America’s children when he sees it.
In Atlanta, where kids breathe some of the most polluted air in the country, and the water they drink has a urine smell to it, Vince is livid about Purple Haze and Acapulco Gold, and he’s gone to war with convenience stores to get them to stop selling products named Haze, Gold, and Rasta.

“This kind of thing is reprehensible. It’s nothing but dope candy, and that’s nothing we need to be training our children to do,” Vince said recently, protesting sales of hemp-flavored lollipops.

Earth to Vince: This is not “dope candy,” and children aren’t being trained to “do” it. The lollies taste a little bit like cannabis, but they contain zero percent THC. These aren’t cannabinoid candies. They’re legal products sold in head shops and similar stores to adults 18 years of age and older. They don’t get anybody high, except on sugar.

Facts don’t matter to Vince and other anti-drug politicians. Boys and girls, the politicians are ready for action. They’re into the “candy gateway theory.” Ready for an explanation of the theory? Ok, here goes: if kids see faux cannabis candy, they will think real cannabis is sweet, and will start using it.

“It’s pretty clear to see what they’re trying to appeal to,” explained Pat Shea, a North Carolina program director for the DARE program. “They want to appeal to the wannabe’s. We always say that the wannabe’s are going-to-be’s.”

Doesn’t make any sense to me either, but then again, I’m not a politician from Georgia or a DARE program director.

Maybe way down there in the Deep South, down where lynchings and cops in schools with dogs and guns are more than just distant memories, down where US Marijuana Party President Loretta Nall has spent years fighting to stay out of jail because police raided her home and claim to have found less than a gram of cannabis, maybe them kids in Dixie are dumb like that.

So dumb that they need politicians and DARE to protect them from their own stupidity, and from candy.

Well, if they are that dumb, I’d guess also that when them kids see professional baseball players chewing tobacco, it makes ?em use tobacco. They see a NASCAR driver smoking a ciggie, they automatically become smokers themselves. They see beer parties on television commercials, and of course they’re gonna try to get them some beer. They see athletes and sexy models with milk mustaches, and they want to drink milk because it “does a body good,” even though milk is contaminated with bovine growth hormone and pus, and was intended for baby cows, not humans.

Maybe Vince and Pat are right to want to protect kids, but why only protect them from dope candy? Why not ban every damned thing that a kid could get the wrong impression from?

Yeee-haw! Vince and his allies are gonna push for legislation banning dope candy. They’re gonna hold hearings. They’re gonna hold rallies. They’re gonna burn crosses in front of convenience stores.

Vince brags that he’s already managed to intimidate several convenience store companies to remove the cannalollies from their shelves. He wants to pass a law banning the candies, but he’s afraid about the possibility that he can’t ban the sale of a product that doesn’t actually contain a controlled substance.

He ought to read issue 56 of Cannabis Culture, where he’d find a very interesting article about how the US federal government banned pieces of glass that didn’t contain any controlled substances, and staged nationwide raids to enforce the ban and throw lots of people in prison for selling inert, drug-free glass. Is candy next on the fed’s list of banned items?

In Douglasville, Georgia, a suburb west of Atlanta, Mayor Henry Mitchell and his city council passed a resolution that condemned cannacandies.

“This is nowhere near something we want for our kids,” he cried, claiming that dozens of Douglasville-ites had complained about the lollipops.

But this ain’t only about them folks in the Bible Belt getting all upset about candy. Even in sophisticated New York City, Democratic councilwoman Margarita Lopez was appalled to see the candies at convenience stores near schools in her district, which includes the city’s Lower East Side and East Village.

“It was something that exploded in front of my eyes,” said Lopez, who is chairwoman of the council’s committee on mental health and substance abuse.

She introduced a resolution condemning the candies, and plans to hold hearings on the subject this summer.

“The whole logic they use to talk about the candy not being marketed to young people is just baloney,” Lopez said. “We know what they are doing and what they are doing is glorifying substance abuse.”

This is a woman who lives in a city that saw buildings and people blown up in 2001, and she’s saying hemp candies “exploded in front of my eyes?” Couldn’t she have chosen a more sensitive set of words? And does she know what’s in baloney? It ain’t pretty, Margarita.

And really, what’s all the fuss about? Doesn’t Margarita know that these candies are actually anti-drug devices?

So says Tony Sosa, whose Hydro Blunts company markets “marijuana-flavored” Kronic Kandy.

“In our research we have found that our Kronic Kandy is mostly used by customers trying to kick the habit of using the illegal drug marijuana,” said Sosa, whose company also sells flavored rolling papers. “It has the flavor and essence, without any of the pharmacological ingredients.”

Rick Watkins, marketing director for another hemp candy company, isn’t so coy. His company’s slogan: Every lick is like taking a hit.

“To produce this kind of candy is sickening. This is targeted to children,” Lopez fumes, promising to author a law that will ban the candies.

They are sold in “nickel bags” and “20 sacks” and clearly embrace the drug culture, says her colleague, Democratic Harlem Councilman Bill Perkins.

“These candies are clearly perpetuating a culture that is unhealthy. It is unacceptable and needs to be taken off the market,” he said.

Candy is a problem for children, but not because it has a hempy flavor. The real problem is sugar. We know how much politicians really care about kids. That’s why they want to ban the hemp lollies. But what about sugar and junk foods sold to kids in public schools that they are legally required to attend? The kids are starving at school, and they have to buy what’s sold there.

What’s sold there? Junk food and soda pop.

Sugar and junk foods pose a provably greater risk to children than marijuana. One in four American children are severely or moderately obese. Their obesity is caused by eating crappy foods, watching too much television, and not exercising.

Crappy foods are directly linked to childhood health problems such as high blood pressure, gastrointestinal and orthopedic problems, diabetes, depression, ADD, ADHD, heart disease, and even death.

A study published in 2001 by researchers from Children’s Hospital Boston and the Harvard School of Public Health found that for each additional daily serving of a sugar-sweetened soft drink, the incidence of childhood obesity significantly increased.

According to Steven Gortmaker of the Harvard School of Public Health, “Children are drinking more sugar-sweetened drinks like soda and fruit punch, which help to promote obesity, and this poses a real health risk. Childhood obesity can lead to adult obesity and chronic health problems. Families need to be aware of the access their children have to these products both at home and at school and the effects these sugar-sweetened beverages can have on their child’s health.”

Sugar-sweetened beverages monitored in the study included soda, Hawaiian Punch, lemonade, Koolaid or other sweetened fruit drinks as well as iced tea. All of them contain huge amounts of sugar.

Sugar is a very significant problem, researchers said, noting that many soft drinks also contain caffeine, which is highly addictive.

Nationwide, the costs of treating obesity-related diseases exceeds the costs of tobacco/alcohol-related diseases, with 300,000 deaths each year attributed to obesity.

Research from the Centers for Disease Control predicts the current generation of children may have a lifespan ten years shorter than that of their parents if childhood intake of sugar and junk food is not drastically reduced.

You’d expect politicians like Lopez, Vince, and even DARE officers ? people who so truly care about kids ? to be at least as concerned about sugar and junk food as they are about hemp-flavored candies.

Yet, Democrats and Republicans in Congress have routinely joined together to defeat proposals that would have regulated the kinds of foods sold to public school children on campus.

“Some politicians give lip service to the issue of childhood obesity, yet vote to keep junk food in schools,” said Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) nutrition policy director Margo Wootan. “Junk-food lobbyists like the Grocery Manufacturers of America and the National Soft Drink Association wield tremendous influence in Congress and few legislators are willing to defy them.”

According to CSPI, senators who voted in favor of the junk food lobbyists justified their votes by saying school food policy should be a matter of “local control,” even though school food has historically been federally controlled because the federal government invests $8.8 billion in school meal program, an investment Wootan says is undercut by the sale of candy, soft drinks, and chips in school vending machines and cafeteria snack lines.

“Saying ?local control’ essentially means ?do nothing,’ since soda companies have had great success taking advantage of cash-strapped school systems,” explains Wootan. “This is really about parental control, and parents can’t have any control over their kids’ health if junk-food marketers have the key to the school-house door.”

And how’s this for local control? The federal government, in Bush’s “No Child Left Behind Act,” mandated that public schools provide private data on all students to military recruiters, who use the information to hound kids into joining the Imperial Guard.

Now we know the real meaning of No Child Left Behind. It means “left behind” when the next shipment of dead soldiers comes back from Iraq.

Connecticut Republican Governor Jodi Rell just vetoed a school-nutrition bill that would have banned sugary drinks and junk foods from the state’s schools, and required kids to exercise at school 20 minutes a day until they were in fifth grade.

Rell and her friends the junk food lobbyists said school districts are broke, so it’s good for schools to sell junk food on campus to provide much-needed funding for other school programs, such as DARE.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has also been bought off by the junk food industry. The agency recently refused to enforce federal rules that ban junk food sales in schools.

Drew Davis, vice president of federal affairs for the National Soft Drink Association, says sugar drinks and junk food don’t cause any problems for kids.

Stephanie Childs, a hustler for the Grocery Manufacturers of America, explained that, “It is our belief that community decisions are the best approach. Our companies work with schools to provide whatever products they want in schools.”

In March, the Kentucky legislature caved in to the sugarjunk mongers, passing a law that banned soda only in elementary schools. The law’s backers had tried for four years to pass a total ban from grades one through twelve, but Coca-Cola lobbyists bought off legislators who reduced the ban to elementary schools only.

In April, Arizona passed a law banning sales of soft drinks and candy during the school day, but only in kindergarten through eighth grade. The section that would have extended the ban to high schools was removed from the bill at the request of the junk food industry.

In May, an Oregon state bill that would have banned carbonated soft drinks, candy, and fried pastry products in schools was killed by legislators after the Oregon Soft Drink Association donated $91,000 in campaign contributions to state politicians last fall. Three key lawmakers who made sure the bill failed received money directly from the Association.

During the Connecticut debate, Coca-Cola hired Sullivan & LeShane, known as “the most influential lobbying firm in the state.” Coca Cola‘s New York division gave $80,000 to a Sullivan-LeShane lobbyist, who also gets $7,350 a month from Coke‘s New England subsidiary. Surprise: a co-founder of Coca Cola‘s lobbying firm, Patricia LeShane, was Governor Rell’s campaign advisor.

But don’t they realize Coca Cola has the word “coca” in it! That’s because the original Coca Cola had cocaine in it. Shouldn’t the politicians who want to ban Purple Haze lollipops be just as concerned that Coca Cola could promote the use of cocaine?

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