A crime report is making the rounds, centering on a 22-year-old Phoenix woman, Reed Ibrahim, who was arrested on charges of drug possession with the intent to distribute. But there was some initial confusion over what drugs Ibrahim was attempting to move. Reports indicate that law enforcement found 50 pounds of weed and two kilos (approximately 5 pounds) of a substance that tested as cocaine, but which unnamed sources within the DEA later said was fentanyl. Media reports are conflicting over whether Ibrahim will face charges for cocaine or fentanyl. Ibrahim says she was unaware she was carrying the illegal drugs.
Police Mistake 5 Pounds of Fentanyl For Cocaine
Reed Ibrahim was traveling from Phoenix, Arizona to Nashville, Tennessee when TSA alerted DEA agents that Ibrahim’s luggage appeared to contain large bundles resembling narcotics packages. DEA informed Nashville law enforcement, who stopped Ibrahim after she claimed her two checked suitcases in Nashville. A subsequent search, to which Ibrahim consented, turned up two 25-pound packages of cannabis and two kilogram packages of a powder. Agents field-tested the powder and identified it as cocaine.
Police arrested Ibrahim at the scene. Subsequent lab tests of the kilogram packages identified that what officers thought was cocaine was actually fentanyl. Immediately, reports about the incident began to frame Ibrahim as a potential mass murderer. Multiple reports measured the five pounds of fentanyl in its equivalent in lethal doses: law enforcement claimed it was 1 million. There is no known lethal dose of cannabis.
During her interrogation, Ibrahim told police that she had no idea she was carrying the deadly synthetic opioid. She said someone had offered to pay her $1,000 to carry the two suitcases from Phoenix to Nashville. Reports are conflicting as to whether Ibrahim’s cocaine possession charges will be amended to reflect that the packages were fentanyl.
Speaking exclusively with an undercover detective involved in the bust, WSMV News says police are prioritizing enforcement against opioids. The officer told WSMV reporters he believes it’s not a problem Tennessee can “arrest its way out of.” Instead, he said, combatting opioid abuse requires rehabilitation programs and changes to the law.
More States Are Moving To Legalize Cannabis For Opioid Replacement
Stories like Reed Ibrahim’s are a reminder that opioid abuse continues to be a crisis point for public health in the United States. Opioid overdose deaths are now a leading cause of death for those under 50. Between 2016 and 2017, the U.S. Health and Human Services department recorded 2.1 million people suffered from an opioid use disorder, and an estimated 130-plus people died every day from opioid-related drug overdoses. And while fentanyl is undeniably the driver behind deaths from illicit opioids, the rate of prescriptions for opioids isn’t declining much. In 2017, for example, more than 17 percent of all Americans had at least one opioid prescription filled. And there were 58 opioid prescriptions written for every 100 Americans, according to the CDC.
In the face of the deadly epidemic, states with legal medical cannabis are considering opioid replacement as a qualifying condition. Leading the pack is New York, which announced earlier this year that it was adding opioid replacement to its list of qualifying conditions. The massive medical cannabis program expansion means that any condition for which a physician can prescribe an opioid is automatically qualified for a medical cannabis recommendation. With the over-prescribing of opioids a contributing factor to the epidemic of abuse and overdoses in the U.S., the hope is that cannabis can both help to reduce opioid prescriptions and serve as an alternative painkilling treatment.