Coming of age in the 1990’s, my friends and I mostly blazed on bricks of Mexican marijuana. Sixty dollar ounces of smashed, seedy weed and a metal pipe or an acrylic bong was all we needed back then but it didn’t take long for the game to begin to change.
Around the mid-90’s we were graduating from high school and SoCal was graduating from mex to chronic and we were suddenly surrounded by actual intact, sticky, stinky, buds that we called “Christmas trees” due to their conical shape and dusting of “crystals”.
I wouldn’t know the proper term for those crystals – or their essential role in the cannabis experience - for many years (trichomes, btw) but we all seemed relatively confident that the more of them you saw on your nugs, the higher the quality.
So I distinctly remember rumors swirling around town of weed covered not in swollen, juicy, trichs, but instead that was rolled in “fiberglass” to simulate the frosty, shiny look of the new top shelf flowers floating around.
Even now, I can picture just how narrow my skeptical squinty eyes got when I heard that rumor. My first thought was to take one step backward from that claim and picture some dude crushing up fiberglass, constantly itching, and then rolling a perfectly good bud in it like the corn lady rolls elote in cotija.
Who would do that?
If your purpose is to sell weed, that’s a pretty short term biz plan if not a good way to get your ass beat.
Who knows? But I wasn’t falling for it.
A few years later, as tastes continued to evolve, strains of dank that featured any signs of purple became the hype new trend. Today I turn my nose at 95% of purple weed but back then it was different and that was enough to drive demand.
So, once again, rumors picked up that some of the purple weed in town was just being dyed purple. We were told that if you buy purple weed, roll it in a wet paper towel before you smoke it to see if any of the color smudges off.
Cue that skeptical squint.
Again, picture the scene. Some weed dealer mixing up purple dye and then dousing his inventory in it, re-drying it, and hoping to make another few bucks per gram assuming the whole plan doesn’t go soggy on him.
I actually don’t disbelieve that someone, somewhere once manipulated some weed to trick a custy. I remain confident, however, that those are isolated incidents at most, and likely more along the lines of sativa-fueled fever dreams.
So now as New York, one of the most populous states in our nation, teeters on the brink of becoming the 11th state in the U.S. to legalize the adult use of cannabis, we are being asked to believe that an epidemic of fentanyl-laced cannabis is loose on the streets of Staten Island.
According to a report released earlier this week, officers from the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office in upstate New York confiscated a bag of weed in a Walmart parking lot that they say tested positive for the highly addictive and deadly painkiller, fentanyl.
Ok, ok, thank you for your service officers, now please take off the Party City lab coats and stethoscopes and go fight some actual crime.
This rumor of fentanyl-laced weed is not new, and you can trace its roots back to one of the best alternative-fact-peddlers we have seen in recent memory – Kellyanne Conway.
In 2017, the widespread opioid crisis in this country killed an estimated 70,000 people leading President Trump to declare it an emergency and assign his top people to solving the problem.
Unfortunately, we have all seen his “top people” and they all leave a lot to be desired.
Of those 70k deaths, an estimated 30,000 of them were chalked up to fentanyl, and with some massive seizures of the dangerous drug making recent headlines, it is the perfect lightning rod for pot prohibitionists to wield in their last ditch efforts to demonize the plant.
At a news conference on the subject last month, Conway responded to a question by saying of fentanyl, “People are unwittingly ingesting it. It’s laced into heroin, marijuana, meth, cocaine, and it’s also just being distributed by itself.”
Drug policy experts quite literally from coast to coast immediately called a foul on the president’s scrawny blonde mouthpiece for lumping cannabis in with the rest of her comment.
“This is part of a wider fentanyl panic that goes beyond having alternative facts [and] leads to bad decisions,” said Leo Beletsky, an expert on the subject from Northeastern University.
At the University of California, San Francisco, Dan Ciccarone told Buzzfeed News, “It's crazy that this story is coming out from our leaders. 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.”
These experts point to the verifiable fact that the DEA has seized exactly 0.0 grams of fentanyl-laced cannabis. None.
When pressed for evidence, the White House deferred to the National Institute on Drug Abuse who could only cite anecdotal evidence from… guess who? Local law enforcement officers.
Beletsky has something to say about that as well, adding, “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.”
Testing “equipment” used by podunk cops is notoriously inaccurate and often over sensitive to help them fill their quotas and jail cells.
Paper currency, for example, often carries incredibly minute amounts of drugs just from being handled by so many people as it moves through the economy. The same can be true for weed but even if that was the case, and even if it could be detected in those trace amounts, smoking it on weed would not run a risk of overdose or addiction, and Ciccarone, an epidemiologist by trade, concurs.
The positive samples are from levels of contamination that are not clinically meaningful,” Ciccarone told Buzzfeed. “They are not felt by the person.”
Meanwhile, let’s jump back over to Sullivan County in New York.
Ok, so there is a lot of illicit fentanyl on the streets and the public is beginning to wisen up about the dangers of it so, yeah, maybe sales are down for their local dope dealers. Maybe they are dusting it onto their midgrade weed to spruce it up a bit, hoping their custies don’t have the internet or functioning eyeballs.
Or maybe, and bear with me here, just maybe the local pigs in Sullivan don’t want to see weed legalized and are pulling the ol’ Dave Chapelle sprinkle move to make some negative headlines.
See, if you google their department, and the actual sheriff in particular, you find a slew of stories about how anti-cannabis Sheriff Schiff and his goons are.
In 2010, Schiff was sued by a former corrections officer who lost her job and subsequently her family after she was fired for smoking weed one time while off duty. 47-year old Lillian Allen admitted to trying weed once in an attempt to alleviate chronic pain due to rheumatoid arthritis.
An arbitrator in the case recommended that she be suspended for 15 days and be allowed to return to work. Instead, Schiff used her honesty in her testimony against her in a civil case and it cost her everything.
So if you look hard enough at your screen right now, you might see me squinting harder and more skeptically than ever before at this story.
Reefer Madness dies slow.