Cannabis is safe
Fentanyl-laced marijuana is an urban myth…so far
Fentanyl has contaminated all prohibited drugs in Ohio — except marijuana and mushrooms. Fentanyl is now in cocaine, meth, Ecstasy and other drugs, pushing Ohio’s overdose death toll toward 4,500 in 2017.
But what about cannabis? Why not cannabis?
Is Ohio’s most popular illegal drug really free from fentanyl?
The answer is: YES. You can use marijuana without fearing fentanyl. But, remember, it is possible to dust cannabis with fentanyl, so the risk is there in theory but not, so far, in reality.
But someone told me…
in theory, marijuana could be contaminated by fentanyl, just as any food or drug could. It just isn’t happening.
False claims of fentanyl-laced marijuana work this way: Authorities say they’ve seized fentanyl-laced marijuana or someone has died from it. A few months later, lab results show the pronouncements were false.
Unfortunately, scary nonsense sticks in the public memory long after it’s been discredited.
Those who make a living off marijuana prohibition — especially rehab entrepreneurs — perpetuate the urban myth of fentanyl-laced marijuana. This photo from Recovery First, a for-profit rehab operation in Florida, is typical of the propaganda.
What we know
The possibility of fentanyl-laced marijuana is real. So false claims — especially from public health officials who should know better — are extraordinarily irresponsible and will undermine legitimate alerts if contaminated marijuana does occur.
But, today, the estimated 1.3 million cannabis users in Ohio have no reason to fear.
To check my facts, I asked Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws(NORML), if he knew of any confirmed cases of fentanyl-laced marijuana. Paul has voluminous, up-to-date knowledge about marijuana because he handles news clippings and alerts sent to the public, the media and NORML members.
As you can imagine. few people know more or care more about preventing marijuana user deaths than NORML’s staff, who advocate full-time for cannabis users.
Paul’s response: “I’m not aware of any media reports of this nature that have ultimately been confirmed. Time and time again these reports go unsubstantiated or are eventually walked back for being false.”
High Times, the half-century-old magazine for cannabis consumers, made the same point in an August article, “The Truth Behind Reports of ‘Fentanyl-laced Pot.’” The magazine quoted DEA spokesperson Melvin Patterson admitting there were no confirmed reports of fentanyl in marijuana: “In regard to marijuana, I’m not familiar with that.”
And Snopes.com, the urban myth-busting site, has made this point, too: “Nearly all reports of fentanyl-laced marijuana use are based on faulty reporting, and no evidence suggests that its occurrence is in any way rooted in reality.”
To Google’s credit, when you search on the words “fentanyl-laced marijuana,” the No. 1 response is the Snopes.com story. High Times stories are No. 2 and 3 in the research results, and Recovery First’s false claim is No. 4.
Ohio says, “Thank you, Colorado”
The current safety of Ohio’s illegal marijuana supply from fentanyl is beyond dispute.
However, the state’s delay in legalizing medical or recreational marijuana has created a significant public health risk that fentanyl-laced marijuana could happen. The fact that it hasn’t happened doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen, and, if it did, fentanyl-laced marijuana would be a public health catastrophe.
Few marijuana smokers would be aware of fentanyl’s presence or have the opioid tolerance needed to withstand an unexpected dose of a powerful opioid such as fentanyl.
Ohio’s marijuana supply has been protected because most of our cannabis is produced in the United States — right here in Ohio or in legal states such as Colorado and California.
Fentanyl-contaminated drugs are mostly imported. Every drug in the Mexican supply chain carries a significant risk of fentanyl contamination.
A lot of marijuana used to be imported from Mexico. But legalization in other states destroyed that market.
Because of legalization, fentanyl-laced marijuana in Colorado is no more of a threat than fentanyl-laced Coca Cola. And Ohio owes a great to debt to Colorado. If cannabis still came from Mexico, a strong financial incentive would exist for smuggler’s to give bulky marijuana a “potency boost” from tiny fentanyl to keep shipments compact in size and harder for law enforcement to detect.
Colorado’s boldness and foresight boldness has likely saved many lives in behind-the-times Ohio. During a drug overdose epidemic, the case for legalizing marijuana has never been more true. And that’s reality, not urban myth.
— Dennis Cauchon, President, Harm Reduction Ohio