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When Debbie Ball first started making fake meth, she didn’t think it was going to last.
“None of us thought that show was going to make it, and then after he started getting his awards, it took off,” she explains.
Like many good drug deals though, this one came to an abrupt end. And after just two seasons, the show, which is filmed in New Mexico, started making its own fake meth.
And so, Bell thought the whole thing was pretty much over.
Alas, it was just beginning. Because last May, the star of the show, Bryan Cranston, who plays the Walter White, started handing out little “dime bags” of meth candy on The Late Show with David Letterman. And suddenly, Bell’s entrepreneurial spirit kicked in.
She started making the candy she had originally sold to the show and selling it in little dime bags for $1. It was cotton-candy flavored blue rock candy that could pass for the real thing about as well as paprika could pass for marijuana.
It didn’t take long for the media spotlight to shine down.
“The stations came around to see what people were doing that was related to Breaking Bad, which was great,” Ball explains. “I’m really the only company here that has a direct link to the show... all the others spun off an idea. I’ve gotten the most publicity out of all of them.”
She has since sold more than 20,000 bags of the candy, and done too many interviews to count, including many for international publications.
Ball says she’s able to sell the candy without paying any licensing fees for three reasons. One, she actually did make a candy meth for the show. Two, she says she never had a contract with the show when she agreed to make the prop.
And three, the show’s logo is defined by letters from the periodic table, which can’t be copyrighted.
Of course, since drugs are involved, there’s been detractors. Bell has dealt with her fair share of bad publicity for selling candy drugs.
On her Yelp page, Jenny L. from Campbell, Calif., wrote,
“No stars (had to pick a least 1)! Creating candy that resembles drugs is not responsible... The fact is it’s a cheap way to cash in. It’s candy in a baggie made to resemble drugs, period! I will, like many others, be writing to the newspapers, the mayor and governor. I am disgusted!”
Meanwhile, numerous people have written into the Albuquerque Journal about the candy, including Donna Fletcher, of Albuquerque, who says:
“I have worked with young children for 29 years. Most children love candy! So the Candy Lady will sell “meth” candy, and the young children will think it is OK to eat because it is candy.... What happens when the drug dealer approaches a young child and says “This is meth candy”? “Oh, thank you,” says the young child. And the drug addiction begins.”
Bell doesn’t take her fake drugs lightly though. In fact, just the opposite — she has an extremely nuanced view of the whole situation.
To start with, she says she’s always been very careful to label the candy as “Breaking Bad Candy” as opposed to something like “Blue Meth.”
And, she says the show is actually about all the horrible things that happen to you when meth gets into your life.
“People have such a negative attitude and when I have a half hour conversation with these people, the first thing I ask them is, ‘Have you ever seen the show?’” she says. “It shows what happens to people when they do something they’re not supposed to.”
Bell says a lot of customers have come into her shop wanting to yell at her for making the candy, but she just lets them say their piece and then she explains her side of things.
“I'm not promoting drugs, I'm promoting a prop,” she says, on her Facebook page. “In fact, I believe I am promoting the education of drugs... Would you rather have your children learn about drugs on the street, or would you rather have the opportunity to explain the drug and the consequences?”
And, sadly, Bell has first-hand knowledge of what drugs can do to a family. She says the mother of her grandchildren actually died from an overdose that involved meth.
But, she says that’s all the more reason for people to understand just how devastating the consequences can be when you get involved with drugs like meth.
At the end of the day, it’s so easy to put things into little boxes of right and wrong. It’s easy to say that producing candy that looks like meth is simply wrong. But when you stop to take a second and actually think about the situation, it’s actually not that easy.
Drugs win when we ignore them. They win when we tell ourselves that kids won’t do them if we never bring them up in polite conversation. And they win, when people believe that we can actually stop someone from trying meth by stopping Debbie Bell from making fake candy meth that doesn’t look anything like the real thing.
So instead, let’s have a conversation about how horrible they are, about how they destroy families and kill people. And let’s talk about how they make people like Walter White break bad.
And then let’s all take a deep breath and eat some candy.