Connecticut legalized recreational cannabis less than five months ago, but official retail sales will not be operational for months.
Now, Connecticut officials are confronting a dangerous trend from their still-thriving illicit market: overdoses from Fentanyl-laced marijuana. Connecticut is seeing approximately ten overdoses per month from consumers who believed they were smoking only marijuana.
Law enforcement officials say legal weed options have driven black market dealers to make more potent marijuana to attract customers.
“This is all illicit drugs they’re getting off the street,” Susan Logan, an epidemiologist at the Connecticut Department of Public Health, said.
“People who have overdosed have said they thought they were only taking marijuana and then they needed to be administered Naloxone in order to reverse their overdose.”
Recently, Plymouth Police sent a sample to the state lab for processing which confirmed their suspicions. The fentanyl-laced cannabis was the first such case in Connecticut and possibly in the country. Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid similar to morphine but 50 to 100 times more potent.
“They are doing this with an aerosolized form of fentanyl being sprayed on the marijuana to make it more potent, but also at the same time, more addictive,” Brian Foley, spokesman for the Department of Emergency Services, said. “Buying marijuana through illegitimate means that this is a possibility,”
The health threat may already be moving throughout New England. Officers with the Brattleboro, Vermont Police Department seized marijuana following an overdose. A field test showed that the cannabis contained fentanyl.
Police in Vermont are now warning the public of the potential danger. Consumers are encouraged to ensure they know and trust the source and history of the marijuana they consume. As in Connecticut, Vermont has legalized adult-use cannabis, but retail sales won’t be available for several months.
Synthetic opioids, like fentanyl, have become the most common drugs involved in drug overdose deaths in the United States. Since 2010, opioid-related deaths involving fentanyl rose from 14.3 percent to 59.8% in 2017.
A study published in July showed that daily cannabis consumption could lower the odds of opioid abuse among patients.
Whereas cannabis from the black market is sketchy, legal dispensaries can provide cannabis in tamper-evident packaging providing consumers with peace of mind.