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No Fentanyl Found in Cannabis After All, Vermont Police Say

The latest chapter in an ongoing series saw a fake alarm after the Vermont fentanyl-laced marijuana scare. A lab cleared two cannabis cases in Vermont of fentanyl-laced marijuana weeks after they were first suspected.

“Fentanyl-laced marijuana blamed for overdose in Vermont,” local station WCAX reported on November 21. Brattleboro Police Department (BPD) told the media they revived a patient using CPR and several doses of Narcan—the opioid-overdose antidote naloxone—after the cannabis reportedly tested positive for fentanyl. The person told police they hadn’t taken any opioids—just cannabis.

This quickly spread across the country. On November 30, Brattleboro police searched a house and found what they believe to be fentanyl-laced marijuana. Brattleboro Reformer reported. In connection with the crime, three people were detained in Brattleboro. US NewsReported December 2.

Police said that the cannabis samples were sent to a laboratory for verification of its presence. Both the cannabis from both incidents was found not to contain fentanyl. “The seized marijuana in both incidents was submitted to a forensic laboratory where testing was conducted,” the Brattleboro Police Department said in a statement. “BPD 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 department added. The topic of recreational marijuana was legalized in Vermont for adult 21-year-olds, making it a frequent headline.

The same thing happened a year ago in New York state, when officials said they found the drug in cannabis, and then a week or so later determined it wasn’t. “Non-pharmaceutical fentanyl has not been found mixed into cannabis in New York City,” the city health department clarified. The New York State Department of Health also clarified “it is unlikely to be in weed.” 

Harvard-trained Peter Grinspoon, M.D.He is an Internist at Massachusetts General Hospital, a medical cannabis specialist and an instructor at Harvard Medical School. Books such as No RefillsGrinspoon is the father of Dr. Lester Grinspoon (cannabis activist).

When unverified leads of fentanyl-laced cannabIt is emerge, “It creates fear,” Dr. Grinspoon told Chronic News. “Whenever there’s information about drugs—particularly cannabis—which is incredible, it makes it much harder for public health officials to get information that isYou can trust anyone out there. It’s likeThe Boy who Cried Wolf—so it’s like the D.A.R.E. program. They said that cannabis does this, this, this and this, and teenagers didn’t believe it because it was against their lived experience. It sort of disqualified their other messages about drugs which are actually more dangerous—like heroin or alcohol. It just discredits the ‘official’ sources of information.” 

“It also confuses people when they get conflicting messages,” Dr. Grinspoon said. However, Dr. Grinspoon said that Narcan administration is safe for non-opioid users.

Fentanyl-laced pot is it possible?

One factor is the profitability—whether or not it makes sense financially for a drug dealer to spray fentanyl on cannabis. Additionally, for drug users to use the drug this way would be extremely wasteful.

“The story is bizarre anyways, because it’s unclear if you can consume fentanyl in that way—by smoking,” Dr. Grinspoon said. “Some drugs you can smoke, like cocaine, freebased as crack. However, fentanyl disintegrates at around 500 degrees. [F]It completely disintegrates when it reaches 1000 degrees. When you smoke—you’re talking about 2,000 degrees.” 

He didn’t completely rule out the credibility of these stories. “Maybe you can absorb some of it,” he said. “But it’s not really an obvious way for people to be ingesting fentanyl.” Fentanyl, however, is readily available on the streets and is frequently—and dangerously—mislabeled as other opioids.

“At the same time, fentanyl is turning up in all kinds of places where it hasn’t before—something like two-thirds of the pills people are buying on the streets,” Dr. Grinspoon said. “Oxycodones, Vicodins now have fentanyl in them, which is really awful. A lot of patients are testing positive for fentanyl and they’re not on any opiate use. Then it turns out they’re on cocaine and that’s where the fentanyl is coming from. So it is true that fentanyl is everywhere, which is awful and dangerous.” 

You are literally playing with your life by buying any type of opioid on the street.

“Given that fentanyl is practically everywhere else, it’s not difficult to imagine it in cannabis—but at the same time, it just doesn’t make any sense,” Dr. Grinspoon said. “Cannabis users aren’t per se generally interested in fentanyl. It’s always been an urban myth. It’s not impossible, but usually turns out to be an urban myth.” 

In a separate incident in Connecticut, a rash of overdoses across the state since July may be linked to cannabis laced with fentanyl; a recent overdose in Plymouth, is the first lab-confirmed case of fentanyl mixed with cannabis ever found in Connecticut “and potentially across the country,” according to the state health commissioner. The situation is still evolving.