Fentanyl-Laced Cannabis: Forever Feared, Not Yet Found

Published on August 9, 2017 · Last updated July 28, 2020

Fentanyl is the synthetic opioid that delivers a high 100 times more powerful than morphine. “A few hundred micrograms–the weight of a single grain of salt–are enough to trigger heroin-like bliss,” writes the Globe and Mail. “But the line between euphoria and fatal overdose is frighteningly thin: An amount the size of two grains of salt can kill a healthy adult.”

This exceptionally dangerous drug has taken a serious toll on Canada, where fentanyl addiction is a national crisis and fentanyl overdoses claim hundreds of lives per year. “In British Columbia and Alberta, the two hardest-hit provinces, fatal overdoses linked to fentanyl soared from 42 in 2012 to 418 in 2015,” reports the Globe.

What’s more, fentanyl has historically been added to other hard drugs—typically heroin —in order to boost their potency. That has led a fair number of heroin users to suffer surprise and sometimes fatal overdoses from fentanyl they didn’t know they were ingesting.

All these facts came into play last week, when police in London, Ontario, announced the discovery of fentanyl in the urine of cannabis consumers. “The tests were done in July at the Addiction Services Thames Valley Suboxone Clinic [and] detected fentanyl in people who reported only smoking marijuana,” reports the CBC.

There is zero documented evidence that ever in this country cannabis has been found laced with fentanyl. It’s very important that we make sure that that message is clear.

As a result, London police urged all cannabis users to carry naloxone kits, so they’re ready to combat potentially fatal overdoses on fentanyl-laced weed.

This isn’t the first time Canadian authorities have sounded the alarm over fears of fentanyl-laced cannabis. “The RCMP issued a warning last fall, saying they believed marijuana contaminated with fentanyl was being sold in Masset, B.C.,” reports the London Free Press. “But the warning was based solely on concerns from community members and no fentanyl-laced pot had been seized…. both the RCMP and Canada’s health minister have said the rumours haven’t been proven.”

Similar dubiousness surrounds the more recent warning, which is based entirely on traces of fentanyl being found in the urine of people who claim to have ingested only marijuana. If we lived in a world where no one ever fibbed about their drug use, such claims might be valid. For now, they’re just more anecdotal evidence of something that’s not yet proven to exist.

So let us return to the still-valid words of Federal Health Minister Jane Philpott, who shot down conservative hype about fentanyl-lace cannabis earlier this year: “We have confirmed this with chiefs of police [and] law enforcement officials across this country—there is zero documented evidence that ever in this country cannabis has been found laced with fentanyl. It’s very important that we make sure that that message is clear.”

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Dave Schmader
Dave Schmader
Dave Schmader is the author of the book "Weed: The User's Guide." Follow him on Twitter @davidschmader
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