The past two years have seen recurring scare headlines about “fentanyl-laced marijuana” causing overdoses and hospitalizations. These claims, which now pop up about once a month, are all complete garbage (save one single case in Connecticut last year). The police ring the alarm, and that’s then amplified by local and national media.
So people start to believe fentanyl-laced weed is a real thing. It is NOT, full stop. For those of us who prefer a reality-based existence, America definitely does not have a “fentanyl-laced weed problem.”
Over the past six months, Leafly investigated and analyzed claims of fentanyl-laced marijuana from across the country. What they learned was that — just as we at The Leaf told you more than six months ago — the “fentanyl-laced marijuana” scare is false. Over and over, state lab tests have debunked cop claims of contaminated Cannabis.
The lie spreads from three sources. These are unreliable field drug testing kits, police departments motivated to hype fear, and reporters failing to properly question and fact check the claims of lying police.
And We Told You More Than A Year Ago Cutting Weed With Fentanyl Makes No Economic Sense
Meanwhile — and, again, this is something we at The Leaf pointed out, this time more than a year ago — it makes no sense to cut weed with fentanyl. Simple economics reveals that adding fentanyl to a bag of ganja is a huge money-loser for anyone who sells drugs.
Illicit-market weed sells for anywhere from $5 to $30 a gram in most states. Fentanyl is worth about $40 per 25 microgram patch. That’s a low dosage for a cancer patient treating severe pain. A pure gram of fentanyl is worth up to $200.
That means a pot dealer would have to spend $40 on a fentanyl patch, and successfully extract the drug from the patch. He’d then have to “lace” a $30 bag of weed. In a best-case economic scenario, the dealer is losing $10 on every sale. Never mind that he’s also potentially killing his own loyal customers.
Police Drug Testing Kits Are Unreliable
Cops don’t like to mention that the drug testing kits they use in the field are notoriously unreliable. They are, in fact, so crappy that they’re not even admissible in court.
A New York Times / Pro Publica investigation into America’s field drug tests concluded: “Widespread evidence shows that these tests routinely produce false positives.”
But media spreads the false messaging about fentanyl in marijuana nationwide. When the story is debunked, it doesn’t receive the coverage of the original scare headlines. That misinformation cycle is very damaging.
Fentanyl Myth Empowers Weed-Phobic Liars Like Marco Rubio
The fentanyl-in-weed myth stokes fear for marijuana consumers living in prohibition states who have to buy from the illicit market. They have no product testing or safety measures in an unregulated market.
And the fentanyl myth affects the political conversation about legalization and pot reform. Though these stories are untrue, their repetition has an effect in the halls of power.
For example, Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio recently said he’s against legalization because he believes that legalizing for adults entices more teens to try illicit weed. And Rubio claimed weed is “laced with fentanyl.” Marco’s lies went unchallenged.
Only One Positive Sample In History
Fentanyl traces have only been found in a total of one marijuana sample on American soil in history. The sample was one of 40 tested in Connecticut. A state public health leader admitted it might be “the first confirmed case in the United States.”
Cross-contamination isn’t a real threat to weed smokers either. According to harm reduction specialists, “even if marijuana was dusted with fentanyl, it likely wouldn’t kill a consumer because fentanyl burns up at a lower temperature than marijuana.”
Heat levels used to smoke weed destroy fentanyl before it could be absorbed. So every possible scenario that paints fentanyl-laced weed as a real threat is bullshit.
“Even If Some Idiot Were Smoking Fentanyl With Their Weed…”
“There is no spread of fentanyl-laced marijuana in America,” reports Leafly. ”There is only a spread of false information, wrong assumptions, and headlines that milk fear for profit. Even WebMD says this is a myth you should stop believing.”
Dr. Carl Hart, of Columbia University, is the author of Drug Use For Grownups. ”I’ve been seeing these scare articles for ten years, and I just get tired of it,” Hart said. He pointed out that both marijuana and fentanyl may be ingested through combustion and inhalation. But lighting weed with trace amounts of fentanyl will not cause any effects on the user.
“When we think about fentanyl and smoking weed, the fentanyl will probably decompose before it ever gets into your system,” Hart said. “Even if some idiot were smoking fentanyl with their weed on purpose, they wouldn’t experience any pharmacological effects.”
Shame On Shoddy Reporting And Scare Headlines
These fentanyl panics spread when media outlets serve as little more than PR agencies for local police departments. When that happens, the press platforms cop claims without any actual research, fact checking, or follow-up.
A study published last year in the International Journal of Drug Policy zeroed in on the problem. When it comes to wild claims about fentanyl, “reporters all too often repeat claims by police without asking for proof, report anecdotes as evidence of criminal justice trends, and overall cover criminal justice as a one-sided issue.”
There’s a bit of good news. At some news outlets, that’s slowly changing. Smartphone video and police body camera footage show the fact that police routinely lie in their reports. That’s led to more public questioning of the longstanding practice of news outlets simply spreading police lies without questioning their validity.
“Until readers and public leaders demand more accountability from police and media members, we’ll continue to see more of these stories every month,” Leafly reports.