Fentanyl in weed? Separating fact from fiction

fentanyl in weed

One of the easiest and most commonly used tactics to dissuade people from supporting cannabis legalization is fear-mongering. Bleak warnings of children eating THC gummies and danger on the road are common themes I continue to hear from prohibitionists as I cover the cannabis beat.

Another pervasive claim among the media and lawmakers alike is that people are lacing flower, edibles, and concentrates with the powerful opioid fentanyl.

The allegation is an attempt to associate cannabis, a plant that has been shown to have myriad health benefits, with a dangerous drug that kills thousands of people annually. It’s an easy way for anti-legalization advocates to scare the general public, conjuring images of death and despair. I’m calling it Reefer Madness 2.0.

However, the assertion that law enforcement is finding fentanyl-laced cannabis products is simply not true—and continues to be disproven by experts from across the country.

A zero-proof game

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine said that changes should be made to the state’s newly enacted adult-use cannabis law in a December press conference.

“People could be buying marijuana that has fentanyl in it,” DeWine put plainly.

Dr. Tasha Turner-Bicknell, an associate professor at the University of Cincinnati College of Nursing, swiftly responded. As an expert in overdose prevention who sits on the board of Harm Reduction Ohio, Dr. Turner-Bicknell told Yahoo News that Gov. DeWine’s claims were categorically false. 

“It’s something that is talked about, and it’s covered in the media, but then when actual tests are run in state or government labs, it always comes back negative,” Turner-Bicknell explained. “We really don’t have any evidence at all that there is any proof of any such thing as fentanyl in marijuana.”

Last February, prosecutors in Pennsylvania were forced to walk back claims that local police had found fentanyl-laced THC gummies. Toxicologist Dr. Ryan Marino, who has conducted extensive research on fentanyl, had strong words after the incident, posting on X (formerly Twitter) that the claims were “illogical.”

“When it comes to cannabis … to my knowledge, there’s never been a good, verifiable claim of marijuana testing positive for fentanyl using validated testing methods,” Dr. Marino later told NewsNation.

Unfortunately, it’s not just prohibitionists spreading the fentanyl in weed propaganda—some calls are coming from inside the house.

Using fear as motivation

At a recent conference in Minnesota, a representative of a local hemp business spoke of the “dangers of illicit cannabis” from the main stage. They warned that fentanyl-laced cannabis was being found across the state. 

“Ask local law enforcement,” she told me as I questioned her assertion.

After extensive research that included calls to state legislators, the Minnesota Sheriffs Association, and the Minnesota Coroners & Medical Examiner’ Association, every single person I talked to refuted the speaker’s claim. The coroner I spoke with said that while toxicology reports may sometimes show both fentanyl and THC in someone’s system post-mortem, it’s insufficient evidence that the compounds were found in the same substance.

The fact that someone within the cannabis space was perpetuating this misinformation was beyond frustrating. I understood the motivation; the scarcity mindset has forced some operators to endorse a “by any means necessary” approach to growing their business. 

It’s a tactic playing out in several markets as licensed dispensaries compete with the illicit market. But perhaps focusing on the truth of why regulated cannabis is a better choice than unregulated would be better than spreading falsehoods.

Non-tested cannabis may have contaminants, but there’s no fentanyl in weed

The fear-based approach is not endorsed by all legal cannabis professionals—far from it. 

To help separate fact from fiction, the New York Office of Cannabis Management recently released a fact sheet assuring consumers that there have been zero incidences of state officials finding fentanyl in weed. 

The report pointed out that while unregulated cannabis may contain “unknown contaminants and have inaccurate labeling,” the “anecdotal reports of fentanyl ‘contaminated’ cannabis continue to be found to be false.’”

Anti-cannabis rhetoric is seemingly eroding as more states legalize the plant, but propaganda remains to be spread. Concerns over children accessing THC are valid, however, when it comes to fentanyl in weed, it’s all smoke and mirrors.


rachelle gordon

Rachelle Gordon is a cannabis journalist, Emerald Cup judge, Budist critic, and editor of GreenState.com. She began her weed writing journey in 2015 and has been featured in High Times, CannabisNow, Beard Bros, MG, Skunk, and many others. Rachelle currently splits her time between Minneapolis and Oakland; her favorite cannabis cultivars include Silver Haze and Tangie. Follow Rachelle on Instagram @rachellethewriter