Should we fear fentanyl marijuana?

But then, on Thursday, agents from the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration told reporters that their lab tests on the marijuana seized at the two stages did not detect any fentanyl mixed in with the plant material.

“In the interest of public safety and to address the growing concerns of the citizens of Vermont, the DEA can confirm that no fentanyl was detected in the marijuana seized during the investigation,” said Brian Boyle, the agency’s main agent in New England, in a statement. declaration.

However, Boyle added, “We would like to take this opportunity to reinforce the public safety message that all drugs not purchased or obtained from a licensed and accredited medical facility are illegal, dangerous and potentially fatal.”

To many drug policy advocates, the reversal was proof that a series of recent warnings by New England law enforcement and health officials about dealers adding opioids to the illicit market in New England. marijuana is rubbish. They say the claims are the latest unsubstantiated drug panic story by police, in line with eternal warnings on jarred food given to children on Halloween or reports of officers overdosing at crime scenes after having killed themselves. – saying inhaled fentanyl powder or having absorbed it through the skin (a physical impossibility).

“It’s a very sexy and eye-catching story for the media because you get two controlled substances in one title,” said Monica Donovan, who founded the Heady Vermont cannabis website and recently wrote a column for VTDigger. questioning police claims in the Brattleboro case. . “Unfortunately, this is not true, and while it may help [news outlets] get clicks, these scare tactics are not helping us deal with the real opioid epidemic which is in fact very dangerous.

Police counter that they are engaged in exactly the kind of harm reduction communication that campaigners have long called for, warning the public in a timely manner of potential “bad batches” of illicit drugs without waiting for lab test results that may or may not indicate the cause of the alarm. They also noted that, in recent years, fentanyl has been detected repeatedly in less potent opioids such as heroin and other street drugs, including cocaine, causing thousands of overdoses.

The Connecticut Department of Public Health insists it has verified at least one recent incident in which someone unknowingly used fentanyl-containing marijuana obtained on the illicit market. Overall, agency officials said, they have linked about 40 opioid overdoses in the state since June to tainted cannabis.

“We don’t mean to be alarmist, but in a lot of these cases the person really didn’t know there was fentanyl or some other opioid in their marijuana,” said Susan Logan, epidemiologist for the Department of Health. Connecticut Health, in an interview. “The public needs to be aware that they will not always get what they think they are getting” when they buy illegal drugs on the market.

Logan urged members of the public to call 911 immediately if they see anyone having trouble breathing or staying awake after smoking weed. (A Connecticut “Good Samaritan” law provides some legal protection for those who report opioid overdoses.) She also acknowledged that legal dispensary marijuana is likely safer than the pot sold underground.

Donovan and other skeptics argue that it’s much more likely that drug users will simply lie to police and emergency medical services in order to cover up their intentional opioid use and avoid criminal prosecution. They said it made little sense for dealers to put the lives of their customers at risk by adding fentanyl to marijuana, and that the constant rate of alleged overdoses of milky cannabis in Connecticut does not match the cluster pattern of Overdoses typically seen when a batch of the drug-laced fentanyl hits the street.

“If this were real you would probably see a whole bunch of cases in the same area at once, not overdoses here and there,” said Dr Peter Grinspoon, a doctor and instructor at Harvard Medical School who specializes in cannabis.

However, added Grinspoon, he and other doctors are increasingly treating patients who have accidentally overdosed on fentanyl after taking what they thought was another drug.

“Fentanyl has ‘colonized’ entire swathes of the illicit drug market; there was no cocaine or heroin or [painkiller] pills that people would buy on the streets, but now they are, ”he said. “It makes me think that [the recent reports of laced marijuana] could be plausible, even if it were an urban myth.

He added: “Unfortunately, the police don’t exactly have the capacity to tell the 100% truth about marijuana over the decades, which means people will find it hard to believe even if there is a real crisis. “

In the meantime, advocates and health officials agree on one thing: Consumers are much better off buying cannabis from regulated dispensaries that must test their products for various contaminants, even if the price is higher.

“The irony is that the authorities who fought to keep cannabis illegal are now alerting people to the dangers of illegal cannabis; it’s like an article about Onion, ”Grinspoon said, referring to the satirical post. “The real moral of the story here is that we need to legalize and regulate cannabis.”

Dan Adams can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on twitter @ Dan_Adams86.

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