White House officials are backing one of the biggest misconceptions about the U.S. overdose crisis—the idea that marijuana is being laced with deadly amounts of fentanyl. Before briefing Trump on the crisis last week, Leader of the White House's war on opioids Kellyanne Conway warned of the possibility of fentanyl-laced drugs including marijuana at a news conference.
“People are unwittingly ingesting it,” Conway said. “It’s laced into heroin, marijuana, meth, cocaine, and it’s also just being distributed by itself.”
According to drug policy experts, fentanyl-laced marijuana is not a true threat, although it is true for heroin and in rare cases for cocaine and methamphetamine.
“This is part of a wider fentanyl panic that goes beyond having alternative facts [and] leads to bad decisions,” Northeastern University expert in drug policy Leo Beletsky said in an interview with Buzzfeed News.
Epidemiologist Dan Ciccarone of the University of California, San Francisco echoed Beletsky's concerns: “It's crazy that this story is coming out from our leaders.
“It shows that concerns about fentanyl have reached the level of moral panic. Fear outweighs rational evidence. There is scant evidence for cannabis laced with fentanyl.”
Overdose deaths have more than doubled since 2016. In 2017, overdoses killed around 70,000 people, and CDC statistics suggest that Fentanyl was responsible for at least 30,000 of those deaths. But according to Jill Head, a senior chemist at the DEA, not a single trace of fentanyl has shown up in any marijuana seized by the agency.