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Claim of Fentanyl-Laced Cannabis Overdoses in Connecticut was False

A Connecticut case of cannabis laced with fentanyl has been reported. 

In this case, the false alarm came out of Connecticut, where an investigation has revealed that “nearly 40 Connecticut overdoses [that] were possibly linked to fentanyl-laced marijuana—sparking widespread attention and concern—turned out to be one confirmed case and was probably caused by accidental contamination,” according to a story byCT Insider.

That marks a major walk back from a bulletin in November issued by the Connecticut Department of Public Health, which said that it had “recently received reports of overdose patients who have exhibited opioid overdose symptoms and required naloxone for revival,” and that the “patients denied any opioid use and claimed to have only smoked marijuana.”

The press release listed 39 instances of state-related overdoses between July 2011 and November 2012. Police in Plymouth, Connecticut responded to an overdose incident in October. They seized a cannabis sample that was later found to be positive for fentanyl.

“This is the first lab-confirmed case of marijuana with fentanyl in Connecticut and possibly the first confirmed case in the United States,” said Department of Public Health Commissioner Manisha Juthani.

The department now admits that its initial response was too harsh. 

According toCT InsiderChris Boyle of Connecticut Department of Public Health stated that at most 30 of 39 overdose cases were from people who had used opioids in the past. The website reported that the “the Plymouth sample was the only one that has tested positive for fentanyl,” and that the “state reviewed all marijuana samples submitted to the state Division of Scientific Services Lab from July 1 to Nov. 30 and found no other cannabis submissions that contained fentanyl.”

Boyle said that it’s believed that the contamination occurred when the dealer “failed to clean their instruments before processing the marijuana and cross-contaminated it with fentanyl.”

“Based on the information gathered since the positive confirmation of marijuana with fentanyl, the CT ORS [Connecticut Overdose Response Strategy] assesses that the positive confirmation of marijuana with fentanyl was likely accidental contamination and an isolated incident,” Boyle wrote in an email, as quoted by CT Insider. 

“Anything bought off the street, including cannabis, has the potential to contain other substances, one of those being fentanyl,” Boyle continued. “CT DPH has documented evidence, from not just the State Police Forensics Lab, but from the DEA lab as verification of the seized drug sample, that cannabis was contaminated with fentanyl.”

These are just the latest findings in a wave of mania about this exact issue that broke out late last year. 

Vermont’s November news reports uncovered fentanyl-laced cannabis. Local media outlets caused nationwide panic over the claims of spiked marijuana being discovered in Brattleboro.

But the following month, police in Brattleboro said that the seized cannabis “was submitted to a forensic laboratory where testing was conducted” and that the department “was notified no fentanyl was found in the marijuana in either case.”

“​BPD stands by its previous public safety advisory that it is wise for consumers of marijuana to know the source and history of any marijuana they ingest,” the Brattleboro Police Department said in a statement at the time.

These erroneous reports left many cannabis supporters frustrated. 

“Despite this claim receiving prominent headlines over the past several years, there exist few, if any, confirmed cases of these claims being substantiated,” Paul Armentano, deputy director at the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, told CT Insider