There are many excellent reasons for legalizing cannabis. Time and time again, research has demonstrated that cannabis is a valid treatment for a range of chronic, debilitating medical conditions. Although it may appear we are on the right track with medical cannabis being legalized in over 30 states and territories, there are still many issues surrounding legalization and regulation.
Despite the fact that 62 percent of Americans are in favor of legalizing cannabis altogether, marijuana remains illegal and highly criminalized throughout much of the Land of the Free. Every day, countless medical and recreational marijuana users are arrested, prosecuted, and incarcerated for possession of small amounts of marijuana.
One unintended consequence of marijuana prohibition: cannabis laced with other drugs, including opioids, like fentanyl. In the last several decades, the opioid crisis has taken its hold on the United States. With an average of 130 Americans dying of an opioid overdose every single day, it is truly a national emergency.
A batch of fentanyl-laced cannabis has recently turned up in upstate New York, allegedly. According to an announcement by the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office, the cannabis was confiscated from an unnamed person in a parking lot outside of the Walmart in Thompson, NY. The marijuana later tested positive for the opioid fentanyl.
Police have warned cannabis users in that area to be cautious before purchasing any marijuana off of the black market.
According to Thompson County Sheriff, Sheriff Maciol, “With fentanyl-laced marijuana now confirmed to be in New York State, I am extremely concerned for the safety of anyone using marijuana. Everyone needs to be aware that the potential of getting fentanyl-laced marijuana is possible and the side effects can be deadly. We have seen the tragic results of what heroin and fentanyl mixed together can do and I fear for what will be happening now that it’s being mixed into marijuana.”
Previous reports of marijuana being laced with fentanyl have later proven false.
Kellyanne Conway has been a vocal speaker on the issue in recent weeks, saying, “People are unwittingly ingesting it. It’s laced into heroin, marijuana, meth, cocaine, and it’s also just being distributed by itself.”
Researchers have contested whether fentanyl-laced marijuana is actually an issue. According to a March BuzzFeed article, “the mistaken police reports might have come from weed that tested positive for fentanyl on ultrasensitive test strips that can detect the drug at concentrations as low as one-billionth of a gram.”
According to Leo Beletsky, drug policy expert for Northeastern University, “There’s this mistaken belief that law enforcement are experts on the drugs they are seizing. That’s just not the case, and that’s part of the problem.”
Attendees of a marijuana festival in San Francisco have also been warned to steer clear of any cannabis not purchased directly from a reputable dispensary. The San Francisco Police Department Captain Una Bailey mentioned in a press release last week, “Last year we had numerous attendees pass out from using marijuana laced with fentanyl. Fentanyl is one of the strongest opiate drugs on the market being 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. A tiny bit too much can be fatal.”
Meanwhile, states that have legalized medical and recreational marijuana have seen substantial declines in opioid use.