A new report has been flooding local and national news outlets this week, suggesting that the hyper-addictive, extremely deadly synthetic opiate fentanyl, a main culprit in America’s raging opioid epidemic, is being mixed into cannabis by drug dealers looking to hook users. This may sound like cause for alarm, but when you look a little closer, it appears that all of the fenta-weed hullabaloo is just the fear-mongering gossip of one Ohio Senator with a decidedly anti-cannabis history.
In a recent press conference that was picked up by news outlets across Ohio, Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco, a Cincinnati-area coroner, stated “We have seen fentanyl mixed with cocaine, we have also seen fentanyl mixed with marijuana.” However, Dr. Sammarco provided zero context or proof for her claims.
In fact, in Hamilton county, where Dr. Sammarco is the coroner, police officers with the county’s Heroin Coalition told Cincinnati.com that no cases of marijuana laced with fentanyl have been found or reported, a statistically-backed claim that was reinforced by a DEA spokesman, who also told Cincinnati.com that there have been zero reported cases of the deadly opiate mixed with marijuana.
But while Dr. Sammarco didn’t provide any statistics, she was joined by Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman, the man who has for years contested that legalizing marijuana is the “wrong direction” for Ohio. It is important to note that Portman was by Dr. Sammarco’s side when she made the marijuana/fentanyl connection, because this is not the first time that Portman has tried to push the unfounded connection to his constituents.
In March of this year, Portman gave a speech about Ohio’s opioid epidemic and made the exact same claim, this time attributing the discovery to narcotics officers in Toledo.
“Drug traffickers are lacing other drugs with it. I was told by the DART Task Force in Toledo that they’re actually sprinkling fentanyl in marijuana now, and people are showing up in the emergency room and overdosing on marijuana because it’s sprinkled with fentanyl. It’s more addictive, so the traffickers like it.”
In the days after that claim, reporters followed up with Toledo’s DART Task Force and found that Portman’s claims were entirely made up.
“I personally have not heard (of marijuana being laced with fentanyl in the county).” Lt. Bobby Chromik of the Lucas County DART told MassRoots in a phone interview. “That stuff is usually reported directly to me.”
Now, less than half a year since his original claims were debunked, Portman is back, funneling his reefer madness through Dr. Sammarco. While she steered clear of facts, Dr. Sammarco did manage to disseminate her own version of absurd fear-mongering, warning Ohioans to watch out for their local pot dealer.
“Essentially, the message we’ve tried to get out there, is if you are using any form of street drugs, count on them having some form of synthetic opioid mixed in,” Samarco said.
Maybe if Senator Portman and his fellow lawmakers would stop making things up and get to work legalizing cannabis, Ohioans could buy their weed in regulated stores, and not on the street, where it might be tainted by imaginary opiates.