Is Marijuana Ever Cut With Fentanyl?

“OK, So Maybe Those Gummies Didn’t Contain Heroin or Fentanyl After All,” one outlet corrected

Last week Philadelphia news outlets reported that THC gummies being sold from area tobacco stores were tainted with fentanyl and heroin, leading to a pair of overdoses.

Investigators say heroin and fentanyl were found in some of the Strictly Delta brand of ‘Delta 8 THC 600 MG Happy Cubes’ sold at three Tobacco Hut stores…”Urb Extrax” and “Pinewood Coned,” which were also sold at the stores, tested positive for fentanyl, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

That these goofily-named, mass-produced, over-the-counter products were laced with potentially-deadly illicit drugs was fairly shocking news. Keep in mind that recreational weed is not legal in Pennsylvania, but Delta 8, a cannabinoid strain derived from hemp, can be sold owing to a loophole in the law.

This represented perhaps the first reported instance of fentanyl being used to adulterate a THC product, a phenomenon I’d long believed was an urban legend. A Snopes page from 2017 reads: “There have been no confirmed incidents in which fentanyl has ever been conclusively detected in marijuana samples,” and a 2021 Forbes article claims, “Fentanyl-Tainted Marijuana Is A Myth That Refuses To Go Away.”

Though the toxicology reports of overdose death victims often list both THC and opioids, that usually just proves the person used each substance independently in the days before their death.

Why is it so uncommon for fentanyl to be cut into weed? Because there’s no profit motive, the way there is with heroin, cocaine, meth, and prescription pills. Fentanyl is cheaper than those drugs, and plus it’s also a white powder, so it makes sense for dealers to combine them to increase profits. But fentanyl doesn’t “stretch” marijuana flower, and they can’t be believably blended.

And so for years I have been telling people to have no fear: As long as your buds look normal, and smell normal, they almost certainly don’t have fentanyl in them.

This is important! We find ourselves at the darkest time for recreational drug use in human history; any pill or powder bought on the black market can have fentanyl. So it’s nice, the idea that there’s at least one drug you can still safely take without testing. (Magic mushrooms is another.)

But not everyone believes me. When I made this claim at a Fentanyl, Inc. reading in St. Louis, a woman stood up and called me a liar, insisting that her son died from fentanyl-laced marijuana. How could I argue with that?

I could have said that fentanyl and marijuana vaporize at different temperatures, thereby making this elixir impossible, even if, say, liquid fentanyl is mixed into a cannabis vape. From Filter:

Fentanyl’s boiling point is 466℃, or about 871℉. For comparison, I consulted the sites for two popular brands of vape used for cannabis: Pax and Grenco. Pax states that the hottest temperature reached by its products is 210℃. Grenco, maker of the G Pen, states that the highest setting of this device gets to 220℃….So while fentanyl can be vaped, it needs high heat to get there, and the devices used to vape cannabis simply don’t get that hot.

I didn’t tell this to the grieving mother, but maybe I should have. I often hear of adults telling kids that fentanyl adulterates marijuana; maybe they have bad info, or maybe they just don’t want kids smoking weed in the first place.

Yes, too much weed is bad for a developing brain. But it’s a slippery slope; if we tell kids this myth, they’re not going to believe us when we tell them the actual deadly truths about fentanyl.

At least, this was what I believed until I heard the reports out of Philadelphia.

Authorities say ‘Juicy Pineapple’ tested positive for fentanyl and ‘Blue Lemonade’ was found to contain heroin, fentanyl and methyl fentanyl.

However, a few days later, a new round of stories came out. “OK, So Maybe Those Gummies Didn’t Contain Heroin or Fentanyl After All,” corrected Philadelphia Magazine.

It turns out that the investigators who performed the original tests used some ridiculously sensitive portable equipment whose threshold for detection is .01 nanogram. One nanogram is equivalent to 0.000000001 grams…Over the weekend, investigators sent the supposedly fentanyl-positive products off to a lab for further testing. And the lab found absolutely zero illegal drugs in any of those products.

Listen, I’m not saying it’s impossible for fentanyl to be found in marijuana. I’m also not saying it’s impossible for MDMA to be found in your bottle of mustard. It’s just not likely. It almost certainly will not happen to you.

Although, if you find some ecstasy-flavored Dijon, please let me know. That sounds like quite a tasty sandwich.

You can buy Ben’s book,  Fentanyl, Inc. here, follow him on Instagram here, and subscribe to his Drugs + Hip-Hop newsletter here. Also, here’s a recent Vice News on Drugs episode for which he was the subject. Check it out!