Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine claimed last week that fentanyl-laced pot is a threat to the state as he urged last-minute changes to the law Ohio voters approved last month, but one doctor—trained in the field of overdose prevention—said those stories have been debunked and shouldn’t be perpetuated by leaders. Instead, they should focus on real issues such as fentanyl that’s administered in other ways.
On Nov. 7, voters in Ohio approved a ballot proposal, Issue 2, to legalize adult-use cannabis, making Ohio the 24th state to allow adult-cannabis, 14 of which have done so by way of a public vote.
On Dec. 6, hours before the deadline, the GOP-dominant Ohio Senate approved HB 86, last-minute changes to the law voters approved. They weren’t able to get rid of home grow, but reduced the home grow limit from 12 plants to six, and added a few more changes to the legislation.
But as DeWine made his final pleas to tweak the law, he regurgitated a common myth about cannabis: that drug dealers are lacing pot with fentanyl. Tabloids like the Daily Mail like to run with it. High Times has reported since 2017 that fentanyl-laced pot is a myth that has been debunked, even by Snopes, rated “false.” A Harvard-trained doctor specializing in opioid abuse told us the same thing in 2021.
“This black market will just take off,” DeWine said Dec. 6, explaining the dangers of legalization. “People will be getting it from many sources, none of them legally. Without this bill, people could be buying marijuana that has fentanyl in it. The leading cause of death in the state of Ohio of overdoses is fentanyl, 80% of our deaths.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis also shared the same myth as the reason he won’t legalize adult-use pot if elected, saying “… I think it’s a lot different than stuff that people were using 30 or 40 years ago. And I think when kids get on that, I think it causes a lot of problems. And then, of course, you know, they can throw fentanyl in any of this stuff now.”
NBC affiliate WCMH in Ohio interviewed a local doctor who dismissed the myth that was shared by Gov. DeWine.
Dr. Tasha Turner-Bicknell, an associate professor at the University of Cincinnati College of Nursing, is laser-focused on overdose prevention. She told WCHM that during her time as a researcher with Harm Reduction Ohio, where she sits on the board of directors, she has been unable to find a single shred of proof that fentanyl is being found in cannabis. It doesn’t actually have any basis in reality when samples are tested for fentanyl, she said.
“It’s something that is talked about and it’s covered in the media, but then when actual tests are run in state or government labs it always comes back negative,” Turner-Bicknell said. “We really don’t have any evidence at all that there is any proof of any such thing as fentanyl in marijuana.”
Turner-Bicknell called the concept of fentanyl-laced marijuana a myth. She said one reason is the different temperatures that marijuana and fentanyl have to be burned at to be smoked.”
“The way that (fentanyl) would be smoked, it would not really be combustible at the same temperature that marijuana would be burned at,” Turner-Bicknell said. “So, when you talk to people about it more in-depth, it’s also something that’s not really possible, that there would be fentanyl in marijuana and that it would be smoked.”
Other Addiction Doctors Agree Fentanyl-Laced Pot is Unlikely
In a February interview with NewsNation, toxicologist Dr. Ryan Marino agreed that fentanyl isn’t exactly feasible if smoked or vaped.
Two years ago a doctor told High Times virtually the same thing, that fentanyl is administered in other ways, not on pot, which wouldn’t make much sense for drug dealers to do as it breaks down when smoked or vaped.
Harvard-trained Peter Grinspoon, M.D. is an Internist and medical cannabis specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital and an Instructor at Harvard Medical School. He is author of books such as Free Refills: A Doctor Confronts His Addiction, also a new book Seeing Through the Smoke: A Cannabis Specialist Untangles the Truth about Marijuana, and son of cannabis activist Dr. Lester Grinspoon.
When unverified leads of fentanyl-laced cannabis emerge, “It creates fear,” Dr. Grinspoon told High Times in 2021. “Whenever there’s information about drugs—particularly cannabis—which is incredible, it makes it much harder for public health officials to get information that is credible out there. It’s like The Boy Who Cried Wolf—so it’s like the D.A.R.E. program. They said that cannabis does this, this, this and this, and teenagers didn’t believe it because it was against their lived experience. It sort of disqualified their other messages about drugs which are actually more dangerous—like heroin or alcohol. It just discredits the ‘official’ sources of information.”
“The story is bizarre anyways, because it’s unclear if you can consume fentanyl in that way—by smoking,” Dr. Grinspoon said. “Some drugs you can smoke, like cocaine, freebased as crack. But fentanyl tends to disintegrate starting at about 500 degrees [F], and it fully disintegrates at about 1000 degrees. When you smoke—you’re talking about 2,000 degrees.”
He didn’t completely rule out the credibility of these stories, however.