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Fentanyl Found in Black Market Cannabis

There are many competitors for the title of, “America’s Most Dangerous Killer.”  In 2020, statistics from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) showed that the title belonged to Heart Disease, claiming nearly 700,000 Americans.  Cancer, in all its ugly forms, took just over 600,000 souls.  In distant but nevertheless monumentally tragic third place, came 2020’s surprise candidate, Covid-19. 

But there is another killer climbing the ranks of the CDC’s death statistics – currently in 8th place, but rapidly closing the gap between itself and the big three in the past few years. This killer blends into the background of everyday society, its victims often ridiculed or briefly pitied before being forgotten – This killer is America’s Opiate Crisis.

The Evolution of the Opiate Epidemic

Many of us have heard of this issue before, having caught a passing headline or overheard some information about the rising statistics of opiate related overdoses sweeping the country. Perhaps we shook our heads, grimly clucked our tongues and said something along the lines of, “What a shame, someone should really be doing something about that,” and moved on.

The CDC has labeled the issue an epidemic; the number of Americans dying of overdoses each year has quadrupled since 1999. CDC statisticians divide the nearly 500,000 Americans who have died of overdoses since 1999 into three large waves of epidemic. The first wave came in the late 1990’s to early 2000’s and consisted primarily of overdoses on prescription opiates. The second, in 2010, primarily consisted of heroin related deaths. The third began in 2013, and continues to thrive and grow today. This wave of opiate overdoses was responsible for nearly 70,000 deaths in 2020 alone, and has been primarily driven by potent new opiates like Fentanyl.

Fentanyl is an extremely powerful synthetic opiate, in the same pharmaceutical family as morphine, 100 times more potent.

Fentanyl is an extremely powerful synthetic opiate, in the same pharmaceutical family as morphine, but 100 times more potent.  While it is extremely potent and can often be deadly on its own, it claims most of its victims without them even knowing they ingested the substance.  This is because Fentanyl and its other synthetic opiates have been piggybacking their way onto other recreational drugs.  It is increasingly being found at the scenes of overdoses, often mixed into another substance such as heroin or cocaine.  Some of the overdosed users deliberately chose to mix Fentanyl into their chemical cocktail, but more often the victims had no idea that their drugs had been cut with Fentanyl.

This begs the question, why are black market drug suppliers and dealers sneaking potentially fatal amounts of extremely powerful opiates into their product, knowingly deceiving and endangering their own consumer base?  The answer is that Fentanyl’s other superpowers make it extremely profitable to do so.  Not only are Fentanyl and its numerous derivatives significantly more powerful than old school  morphine, they’re also much cheaper and easier to produce than natural opiates.  This means that street dealers can find extremely profitable markups by cutting more expensive drugs like heroin, cocaine, crack, methamphetamine, PCP, or ecstasy (MDMA), with much cheaper Fentanyl and make their product appear even more potent at the same time.  People who consume Fentanyl cut drugs usually believe that they are getting their “usual substance,” only to be  suddenly rocked by an unexpected wave of super morphine.

So, hello, is someone doing something about this?  Well, on top of the CDC’s  diligent educational efforts, the DEA appears to be taking the issue quite seriously.  In April of this year, The DEA dispatched an official memo to all of its law enforcement partners, warning them about the severity of this crisis  The DEA has also stated that it is seizing illicit Fentanyl at record rates, reporting that they had captured over 2,000 pounds of the substance in the first three months of 2022 alone.   


After over fifty years of being knee-deep in the war on drugs, it is still unclear if the U.S. government is winning the war. What is clear is that the arms race between law enforcement and drug suppliers will continue to encourage the creation of ever more powerful drugs.

Know What You’re Buying

You can never be 100% sure what is in any unregulated or illegally-purchased substance.
Buyers of illicit drugs have always had particular reason to be wary of their suppliers, because consumers have no recourse should the product they receive appear inferior. In today’s black marketplace, anyone seeking to buy cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, methamphetamine, or PCP has yet another reason to be very careful. You have to be very, very confident that your supplier is not cutting their product with Fentanyl.

While Fentanyl is typically found in harder drugs, there have been reports of Fentanyl turning up in black market marijuana in the U.S. It’s best to stick to regulated, legal dispensaries (in states where they’re available) if you’re considering using cannabis products and want to have extra assurances of their safety.

Black market marijuana suppliers are constantly incentivized to find ways of increasing the potency of their products.  Often this drive for higher potency leads to potentially hazardous growing techniques involving the use of powerful pesticides or soil laced with heavy metals.  marijuana can and often is cut with other substances for the same profitable purposes, and while Fentanyl is by far one of the most dangerous substances to mix with other drugs, unknowingly ingesting any combination of drugs laced together can be dangerous and potentially deadly.

Black Market

Pot smokers concerned about the dangers of laced products should seek safety by doing business with state regulated suppliers.

The only places which may be considered truly safe from the dangerous conditions which created Fentanyl are legal dispensaries. States which have legalized weed medically or recreationally have been able to create and enforce regulations on the industries they began to oversee.  Though still in their infancy, such government regulations and oversight have already proven effective in maintaining a certain standard of product which cannot exist in the unregulated wild west of the black market.  When and where they can, pot smokers concerned about the dangers of laced products should seek safety by doing business with state regulated suppliers.  Of course, options depend on geography and financial situation, and such refuge may simply be impossible for some marijuana users to find.  For them, and for anyone wishing to partake in any of the other illicit substances mentioned in this article, they’ll have to stay educated on the dangers they face.

On December 5th, 1933, the United States ratified the 21st amendment, repealing the 18th amendment prohibiting the manufacture, transportation, or sale of alcohol in all U.S. territories.  In doing so, the United States admitted it made a mistake. It faced the evidence of a monumental policy failure and changed course rather than plow on with its head down stubbornly committed to its blunder. 

Modern U.S. drug policy is no doubt an incredibly nuanced affair, carefully being weighed and managed by experts considering factors well beyond the reach of simple solutions based on nothing but common sense.  If we indulge in a brief look back at our own history however, we see a time when our country faced difficulties not unlike our own modern issues.  We may also see that eventually the answer to the issues of that time lay not in more aggressive policing, but in careful policy reform, de-stigmatization, and regulation.  No matter what, until national drug policy is addressed, the best bet for cannabis consumers is buying from licensed dispensaries.

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