An "epidemic" of meth-laced weed is reportedly plaguing a South Dakota town, but is this a real threat or media hype?
It all started last month, when Jay Hepperle, the Assistant Principal at Dickinson High School, issued a warning to students and parents about a potentially-harmful new drug combination of cannabis and meth.
Hepperle told local media he was acting upon a tip that he'd received that the troubling combination was making the rounds in the community.
“Obviously when we get that information, we want to make sure that our kids are safe,” Hepperle told The Dickinson Press.
However, a conversation between MERRY JANE and Dickinson law enforcement officials, as well as an examination of the statistics on such incidents nationwide, reveals that concerns about any sort of epidemic around the issue are likely overblown.
As one Dickinson police officer told MERRY JANE the local police department has not caught wind of consistent activity related to the issue, but the cannabis plant provides ample opportunity for mixing and lacing.
“You can lace marijuana with almost anything,” said the officer. “We were acting on a tip from the high school and investigated. We have not been hearing of any continued problems.”
Despite the outlook by the police, local addiction counselor Jan Kuhn remains circumspect on the issue. According to Kuhn, who owns and runs Dickinson’s Sacajawea Substance Abuse Counseling the local meth dealers have a financial interest in lacing the cannabis they sell with meth, since much of their customer base has been decimated by the area's lost oil rigs.
“There has been concern among dealers that they’re losing their methamphetamine financial base when the oil rig workers go away because those are the people that were their best customers, the ones that had to be up all the time,” she says, stating that meth dealers would use cannabis in an effort to get cannabis smokers addicted to the harder substance.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), meth presents a multitude of health problems for its consistent users. Health risks include those of hyperthermia (elevated body temperature,) convulsions, cardiovascular issues, and insomnia, among other effects. If not treated immediately, an overdose of methamphetamine could result in death.
There are ways to determine whether your cannabis is laced with meth. Before smoking, the THC may appear yellowish and the cannabis may crackle and sizzle upon being smoked; after smoking, the smoker may exhibit some of the aforementioned effects.
Meth-laced cannabis does not appear to be a particularly pervasive problem nationwide. Yet cannabis laced with meth has been cited as a problem in the past, especially in Canada: In 2006, Vancouver-based psychiatrist Dr. Bill MacEwan voiced similar concerns to Kuhn, saying that many of the cannabis users in the area had been duped into using meth-laced cannabis because of its potential to attract repeat customers.
“Drug dealers hypothetically are trying to get people hooked, and crystal meth is a chemical addiction,” said MacEwan. “You develop a market when they’re hooked on your product.”