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Marijuana Laced with Fentanyl? No, Just Cluelessness by White House Drug Policy Advisor Kellyanne Conway [FEATURE]

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #1060)
Politics & Advocacy

Among other roles in the Trump administration, Kellyanne Conway is the White House's opioid crisis czar. But a comment she made last week demonstrates how totally clueless and unqualified for the job she is.

Kellyanne Conway, Trump drug policy advisor (somehow). (Twitter)
At a news conference before briefing Trump on the latest developments in the opioid crisis, Conway took on fentanyl, the powerful synthetic opioid linked to an ever-increasing number of overdose deaths in the country. The presidential advisor warned that fentanyl was turning up in other drugs, which is true. The illicit drug is showing up not only in heroin, where it might be expected to add to the opioid's kick but also in other powder drugs whose users are not even looking for an opioid high, such as the stimulants cocaine and methamphetamine.

The concern about drugs being adulterated with fentanyl is warranted. But Conway went a step further in her remarks, making a claim that would require only a moment's thought (or some actual familiarity with illicit drugs) for her to realize was not only false but ludicrous.

"People are unwittingly ingesting it," she said of fentanyl. "It's laced into heroin, marijuana, meth, cocaine, and it's also being distributed by itself."

Okay, one of those drugs is not like the others, and that should have been a signal to Conway that she was spouting horse manure. Fentanyl, heroin, cocaine, and meth are all drugs that come in powder form, making it easy to cut one with the other. Marijuana, on the other hand, consists of the flowering buds of a plant. Marijuana buds spotted with powdery white speckles would be obvious (and would probably have consumers wondering if that white stuff was mold).

There is also no evidence of marijuana adulterated with fentanyl despite some urban mythologizing by a handful of law enforcement officials, which was repeated by people who should know better, including Dr. Nora Volkow, head of the National Institutes on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

When questioned about Conway's fentanyl and marijuana claim, the White House press office pointed to a speech last year by Volkow. "Fentanyl is being used to lace a wide variety of drugs, including marijuana," she claimed.

When questioned about Volkow's claim, the NIDA press office cited "anecdotal reports" from law enforcement. But those "reports" were actually a single report from police in Vancouver, B.C., in 2015 that "fentanyl-laced marijuana" was killing area drug users. And despite the panic over the claim, Vancouver cops admitted a year later that they hadn't actually seen "fentanyl-laced marijuana".

Again in 2017, some Canadian officials claimed there had been fentanyl-laced marijuana deaths. The only problem with that claim is that Canadian coroners reported no such cases.

There are a couple of ways the fentanyl-laced marijuana myth could have come about. The first is that extremely sensitive fentanyl test strips, which detect concentrations as tiny as one-billionth of a gram, could have detected minuscule amounts of the drug on pot handled by people using fentanyl, much the same way $20-dollar bills are found to be widely contaminated with traces of cocaine. Just as you're not going to get high by licking a $20, you're not going to die by smoking weed contaminated by vanishingly-small traces of fentanyl.

The second link is the presence of marijuana in the bodies of some who have died of fentanyl overdoses. But that reveals only that some people use multiple drugs, not that the lethal fentanyl was in the weed.

The DEA, for its part, has not reported encountering "fentanyl-laced marijuana," but none of this has stopped Conway from making her bogus claim. She made the same claim to right activists at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in March.

That Conway continues to spout such nonsense is disturbing for a number of reasons, drug policy experts told Buzzfeed News last week.

"It's crazy that this story is coming out from our leaders," said epidemiologist Dan Ciccarone of the University of California, San Francisco. "It shows that concerns about fentanyl have reached the level of moral panic. Fear outweighs rational evidence. There is scant evidence for cannabis laced with fentanyl."

"This is part of a wider fentanyl panic that goes beyond having alternative facts and leads to bad decisions," added Northeastern University drug policy expert Leo Beletsky. "There's this mistaken belief that law enforcement are experts on the drugs they are seizing. That's just not the case, and that's part of the problem."

That's an important and under-emphasized point. Police are no more experts on drugs because they arrest drug users and sellers than they are experts on marital relations because they arrest people for domestic violence.

"The danger in a moral panic is that we see this overreaction that leads to a replay of the mistakes of the crack cocaine crisis," Beletsky said. "We need to move beyond the universe of alternative facts."

Unfortunately, this is an administration that swims in a sea of alternative facts. The least we can do is push back hard.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Dain Bramage (not verified)

This is fascism.   We have all been taught one lesson about fascism: yes, it CAN happen here.

Well, take a look around.  What do you call it?  I call it fascism.  White supremacist, authoritarian, fascism.

This is the fascist playbook.  Knowing this, we should predict and expect nothing else but propaganda from Trump and the Trumpanzees.

Reefer Madness was always fascist in nature; now it has metastasized into so-called "alternative facts."

You might know it by a less formal name: BULLSHIT.

It (the bullshit) doesn't have to make sense.  It's not supposed to add up.  The goal is to break our will, our determination, to hold the fascist Republicans accountable, for anything at all.  The goal of the propaganda is to make the legitimate questions go away, by answering ALL questions with a sea of lies, an entire shit-load of easily disprovable lies, in order to bury Truth itself alive.

Don't let the bastards get away with it.

Fri, 04/05/2019 - 9:11pm Permalink
kickback (not verified)

Why don't Democrat's in the House bring forth a Bill to remove Cannabis as Schedule 1 drug ? Remove it from the list entirely . Let the State's decide . Where is the Bill ? Where is the vote in the House on this ?  Democrats are full of it . Put up or shut up . 

Sat, 04/06/2019 - 2:02am Permalink
Dain Bramage (not verified)

In reply to by kickback (not verified)

Speak of the devil, and right on cue, here comes Trump cultist Kickback!  And he drops his load of shit: classic, childish, Trumpian projection (as in, "I'm no puppet.  You're the puppet!")

Kickback, the Republicans are the ones blocking all Democratic bills on anything.

So don't piss down my back and tell me it's raining, you sad dumbfuck.

That is why ALL the Democratic presidential candidates are running on marijuana legalization (and Healthcare, and a living wage), while ALL the Republican presidential candidates... Oh right, you guys don't have any presidential candidates.   Only that ass-clown Trump.  YOUR imbecile in chief.  He is most definitely running against legalization.

Either join with the Democrats, Kickback, or STFU and lie in the bed you made for yourself, you fucking idiot.  You were warned.

Sat, 04/06/2019 - 3:56am Permalink
"Russian Collusion" (not verified)

Pretty standard TDS from the aptly-named NPC "Dain Bramage". Certainly, House Republicans were obstructing legalisation bills, which was bad, but they don't control the House anymore, do they? So when are the House going to pass these bills? Trump has previously said he would sign the STATES Act, and you'd think everyone who supported legalisation would be pleased with that as a good first step, but obsessive TDS sufferers would rather take every opportunity to have a go at Trump than have him assist in the policy changes that they claim they want. If the House passed the STATES Act, and Trump reiterated that he'd sign it, then pressure could be put on Senate Republicans to pass it and that would be a major step forward. Time for certain people to grow up and accept that the president is the president, and if they're really more interested in freeing the weed than they are in obsessive virtue-signalling, then they should be promoting intelligent bipartisan cooperation in order to move closer to that goal. Throwing temper tantrums and believing everything Maddow says for years on end ultimately achieves nothing. Sadly, I think that the likes of "Dain Bramage" would like nothing more than for Trump to viciously crack down on state-level legalisation, just so that they could complain about him some more. They actually seem disappointed that he's pretty much the best president for weed that there's ever been. Do people like this really want legalisation at all, and if they do, are they helpful to the cause?
Mon, 04/08/2019 - 12:29pm Permalink
Dain Bramage (not verified)

Trump is a traitor, thus the WORST president in American History.  Period.

An autocratic despot like Trump can never be good on the marijuana legalization issue, by definition; that is because the very cause of marijuana legalization requires a respect for the rule of law.  That's the entire point -- to rejoin cannabis users into the larger society of law-abiding citizens.  It's built right into the word "legalization."  That means The Law!

Fuck Trump. 

The best president on the weed issue?  Probably President Jimmy Carter.  Way ahead of his time, and a good and decent man.  Those were the days!   Sure as hell can't say that about Trump.

Mon, 04/08/2019 - 11:06pm Permalink
Dain Bramage (not verified)

In reply to by "Russian Collusion" (not verified)

"Obsessive virtue signaling," CollusionDude?

That's what your kind calls people who are protesting the kidnapping of innocent little children?  Babies?  ...Holding them in fucking dog cages?

Holy fucking shit,  I thought I had issues.  But that... that's just fucking sick.


What you call Trump Derangement Syndrome, I call white hot rage.

That's me and a hell of a lot of other people.  We are going to hand Trump his oversized ass.

Tue, 04/09/2019 - 12:36am Permalink
saynotohypocrisy (not verified)

It's neither true or plausible that fentanyl laced black market cannabis is causing deaths or overdoses, but if it were true it would be yet one more confirmation that cannabis prohibition is the cure that is far worse than the disease, the same way that phony cannabis related deaths confirm it.

Tue, 04/09/2019 - 12:26am Permalink

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