Authorities investigate if marijuana being laced with fentanyl
MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont authorities are investigating if the dangerous opioid fentanyl is potentially being used to spike marijuana. It comes amid a crisis in overdose deaths across the country blamed on the powerful narcotic being mixed with heroin.
Brattleboro Police and DEA officials responded Wednesday to a home on Brattle Street and arrested three people on drug charges. According to police, field tests identified fentanyl mixed in with marijuana.
“My focus is on that the public is aware and knows that it’s a possibility,” said Brattleboro Police Chief Norma Hardy.
Official lab tests are scheduled to come back Monday but the incident follows a suspected overdose in Brattleboro last week where the victim denied taking opioids.
Authorities in Connecticut are tracking a similar trend. State officials there traced 39 overdoses since July in one area where all the victims were smoking marijuana and denied taking opioids.
“As the numbers grew, we were like ‘What’s going on?’ That’s when you have to look into things a little differently,” said Robert Lawlor, the New England High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area drug intelligence officer.
Out of the 39 marijuana samples, Connecticut’s forensic science laboratory confirmed one was laced with fentanyl. Harm reduction experts say stimulants can be adulterated but they say cross-contamination could be to blame rather than intentional spiking of marijuana.
“Where another drug like heroin or cocaine or something like that, where the powder is on a surface and the marijuana buds are placed on the same surface,” explained Theresa Vezina, associate director with Vermont Cares.
Authorities say there are still more questions than answers, including is it even possible to combine the drugs effectively since fentanyl burns at a lower temperature than marijuana. They also wonder what the financial benefit of combining the drugs would be. “We really have no handle on why this is occurring or what sense it would make to have it occur,” Lawlor said.
Drug policy may play a role in this discussion too. Recreational pot is legal in Vermont and retail sales are on the way next fall. Vezina says people may not be forthcoming about what they took because other drugs are still criminalized. “They could have used other substances because they feel unsafe to share that information because of the criminalization of them,” she said.
Authorities acknowledge the idea is concerning, but say that this is just a handful of cases with one single positive test out of the millions of Americans that consume marijuana annually.
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