Fact Check: Weed Dealers Don’t Put Fentanyl in Cannabis
A news story published by WCAX late last night said Brattleboro police are warning Vermonters that “fentanyl-laced marijuana” has been found in our region, and that it caused one person to overdose Saturday. Today, similar reports were published by the Brattleboro Reformer and MyNBC5.
I felt an immediate need to address this headline, its potential consequences on public health and its negative impact on cannabis legalization.
The truth is, fentanyl-laced weed is a myth and a frequent scare tactic used by law enforcement. Fentanyl is far more expensive per gram than cannabis — and a grower gains nothing by killing their customers. It’s just bad business, don’t you think?
Buzzfeed called the fentanyl-laced cannabis myth “the hardiest urban legend of the U.S. overdose crisis,” a well-deserved title for a fallacy routinely perpetuated by state and federal officials, shared constantly by law enforcement and amplified regularly via local news.
In the case of this local news story published yesterday, the patient told police they “hadn’t taken any opiates, only smoked marijuana,” a claim that sounds dubious at best.
The police claim that the pot tested positive for fentanyl, but a great deal more context and information is needed to verify that fentanyl was intentionally added to a batch of cannabis before it was distributed to buyers.
While we’re endlessly grateful to WCAX for their coverage of the Vet’s Day Cannabis Giveaway, we also want to encourage ALL local media outlets to at the very least provide some context when republishing a scare tactic bulletin from local police.
This careless approach contributes to misinformation about cannabis and sets back our efforts to educate the general public.
This careless approach contributes to misinformation about cannabis and sets back our efforts to educate the general public, who may not have as much understanding about the complexities and nuances of the relationships between law enforcement, the war on drugs and the consequences for Vermonters.
We will continue to call this out where we see it and to ensure that the public is getting consistent, reliable information about cannabis from our law enforcement and local news media.
For now, though, consumers of local news should file the myth of fentanyl-laced weed with other misplaced hysteria propagated by sensationalist journalism, like the Great Vape Scare and seasonal warnings about people handing out edibles during Halloween.