Claim of fentanyl-laced weed in Michigan doesn't pass the smell test 

click to enlarge A bag of fentanyl. - SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Shutterstock
  • A bag of fentanyl.

Last week, Michigan officials issued a statement regarding a possible "emerging public health threat," warning that marijuana products could be laced with fentanyl, a powerful opioid that can be deadly.

According to the statement, issued Friday by the Michigan Poison & Drug Information Center at Wayne State University, there have been several reports of patients across the country who are in emergency rooms for opioid exposure, though they claim they have only smoked marijuana. According to the statement, a sample in Connecticut tested positive for fentanyl.

Outlets like WDIV in Detroit and Fox 17 in Grand Rapids took the news release and ran with it uncritically. But something smells fishy.

The press release clarifies that though eight suspected cases of fentanyl-laced weed have been reported in Michigan since June, none have been confirmed.

While claims of fentanyl-laced pot have made the rounds across the country in recent years, other outlets of greater journalistic integrity have cast doubt on their veracity. Fact-checking website Snopes deemed such claims false, while Buzzfeed called them "the hardiest urban legend of the U.S. overdose crisis."

At issue is the fact that lacing cannabis with fentanyl doesn't make any sense — fentanyl is more expensive per gram than weed. It's like the claims circulated widely by law enforcement and local news around Halloween warning of cannabis edibles disguised as candy, another myth with no basis in reality. Who would knowingly give away expensive cannabis edibles to kids?

And in the case of fentanyl-laced weed, as others have pointed out, a dealer gains nothing by killing their customers.

What's likely going on is that people are lying to officials about taking illicit drugs. As Snopes reports, a number of reputable news sources have had to walk back their stories about fentanyl-laced pot after the victims admitted they were not being honest to first responders.

Why do officials and news outlets fall for this every time? We're guessing because of ignorance about drugs.

This warning in Michigan also comes at a time of a corporate-backed call for a crackdown against people who grow cannabis at home for medical marijuana patients, also known as caregivers, with the lobbyists claiming that home-grown weed is more dangerous because it isn't tested. There is no evidence of widespread issues with homegrown caregiver pot, however.

To be clear, fentanyl exposure is serious, and if you think someone has been exposed — signs include confusion, drowsiness, vomiting, and pinpoint pupils — call 911. But there's no reason to believe this stuff is in Michigan weed. Officials and news outlets should do better.

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