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Legalization Foe Claims Medical Marijuana Leads to Fentanyl

Legalization Foe Claims Medical Marijuana Leads to Fentanyl
Photo Gracie Malley for Cannabis Now


Legalization Foe Claims Medical Marijuana Leads to Fentanyl

Reports of fentanyl-laced marijuana have largely been debunked, but the head of one of Amerca’s most prominent anti-legalization groups made it this claim to lawmakers.

When states legalize medical marijuana, black-market cannabis tainted with the deadly opiate fentanyl appears, a leading marijuana legalization opponent told the Kentucky State Legislature earlier this month — a demonstrably false claim that has been repeatedly debunked.

Kevin A. Sabet, a social scientist who holds a PhD from Oxford University and who served as a policy adviser in the Office of National Drug Control Policy, is also co-founder and president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), perhaps the country’s most prominent organization dedicated to opposing marijuana legalization. SAM (and Sabet) can generally be found whenever a medical marijuana or legalization ballot measure is before voters.

On Sept. 14, Sabet was in Frankfort, Kentucky, to give testimony at a committee meeting of the Kentucky General Assembly regarding medical marijuana.

Efforts to legalize medical marijuana in Kentucky reached an impasse earlier this year, but state Rep. James Nemes (R-Louisville) has vowed to introduce a similar bill next year.

If he does, and if it passes, Kentucky can expect to see marijuana tainted with the deadly opiate fentanyl, Sabet told lawmakers during his testimony.

During his lengthy presentation, Sabet presented a flowchart under the heading of “The Cycle of ‘Tax and Regulate.’” According to Sabet’s chart, when a state legalizes medical marijuana, the black market so undercuts a regulated, legal market that cannabis “adulterated” with additives like fentanyl appear.

“What happens when a state legalizes? We often see a cycle,” Sabet told the committee. “And I think it’s important to understand the cycle.”

“It starts with medical marijuana. It does give cover to the black market, especially if you have a lot of home growing,” he continued. “It increases supply, it lowers the price. The black market undercuts the legal price, so the black market is thriving in a lot of these states. We see adulterated products in a lot of these black market materials, like fentanyl and others.”

After the fentanyl, eventually, comes lobbyists and then finally recreational marijuana legalization, according to Sabet.

“It’s a cycle that we have seen in state, after state, after state,” he said.

Check for yourself. The segment begins at around the 49-minute mark.

Much of what Sabet said is mostly true. States that have legalized recreational cannabis, including California, Colorado, and Oregon, still see large black markets. And recreational and medical-marijuana laws have often been abused — or broken outright — as cover for the black market.

But it was not immediately clear what factual basis, if any, there is for Sabet’s fentanyl claim.

Smart Approaches to Marijuana did not respond to emails seeking comment from Cannabis Now, and Sabet — a frequent user of social media — did not respond to a tweet sent to his personal account.

Sabet’s claim that marijuana-policy reform leads to marijuana tainted with a deadly drug blamed for America’s drug overdose crisis went unchallenged by the lawmakers in the room.

However, it appears to have no basis in reality and, in fact, is demonstrably false.

In 2017, several reports — all from states where legal medical marijuana was not yet available — claiming that cannabis laced with fentanyl had been discovered were later found to have been based on faulty reporting, according to Snopes.

Earlier this year in Tennessee, the head of a state narcotics task force incorrectly told local media that his agency had discovered fentanyl-laced marijuana. That claim was retracted by an agency spokeswoman, who said it was made in error.

In their zeal to oppose marijuana legalization, Sabet and his organization are known for making outlandish and sometimes shameless statements.

In an op-ed published in the Detroit Free Press on the same day Hurricane Florence was bearing down on North Carolina, Sabet compared marijuana legalization to the deadly storm, which to date has killed at least 48 people.

But with the fentanyl fib, SAM may have sunk to its lowest low yet. Sabet made this at-best questionable claim in an extremely sensitive environment, where fentanyl is a well-known killer.

Drug overdoses in Kentucky increased by more than 11.5 percent last year, according to data released in July — with fentanyl being the chief cause.

Making this demonstrably false claim in a state that has been hit hard by opiate overdose deaths is either an unbelievably careless mistake — or a nakedly cynical move made to conflate the two drugs in order to sow confusion and fear.

Which is it? SAM won’t say.

TELL US, do you buy the argument that medical marijuana leads to other black market substances like fentanyl?



  1. Jason Evans

    October 5, 2018 at 5:29 am

    Some serious shit stickory going on here. Pot is not a gateway drug. Fortunately, there is no gateway drug. However, pain, stress, tension, depression, all those will make you do drugs or drink! I gave up all of my meds after I ended up with acute renal failure, very sick, and 50 lbs over weight! Then I moved to CO got better than the docs were trying to make me with their drugs and physical therapy. I was blown through a wall and then put on heavy drugs and therapy all while I was supposed to be recovering from a severe concussion, brain injury, and crushed muscles. All the shit they had me doing was actually killing me! So, I told pain management to piss off along with the company that I worked for. I took my health into my own hands! Now, I’m healthy and doing a lot better and I don’t take any of the drugs!

  2. William Bennett

    October 3, 2018 at 10:26 am

    We have medical cannabis in Delaware, but our legalization efforts keep hitting roadblocks from some of the same people who are fine with medical use. And why? They believe, against all evidence, that pot is a “gateway drug.” Well, I used it before I got my medical marijuana card — have been using it for years, and except for one try of powered cocaine in my college years (BEFORE I was a regular pot smoker) I’ve never tried an illegal drug, nor have I abused legal ones.

    I knew my personal narrative wouldn’t move these legislators at all, so I sent them all the legit links I could find about studies that confirmed or debunked their beliefs. What I found ran the gamut from “No, it’s not a gateway drug,” to “It could be for some people, but more study is needed.” I was told, in not so many words, that it didn’t matter what evidence I presented, it was not going to shake their belief in the “gateway drug” status of cannabis.

    But they can’t answer this: If it’s a gateway drug, where are all the medical cannabis patients who are moving on to harder drugs?

  3. Charles E. Elkins

    October 2, 2018 at 4:00 am

    Are you seriously going there. I’ve enjoyed cannabis for over 50 years. Never have done heroin. Do not desire fentanyl. AT ALL.
    Only time I take a pain killer. It’s prescribed from my physician of 20+ years. Received from their pharmacy. So you are wrong in this article. Also many heroin and fentanyl addicts have never even smoked cannabis. You need much better research.

  4. p_jeeves

    October 1, 2018 at 5:16 pm

    Well, I know that NOT legalizing cannabis, won’t help those who pay no attention to the DEA, or the Controlled Substances Act. If they persist in listening to this man, It will do damage to the truth. Seems people would rather hear lies than the truth in this country, anymore. Continuing to codify what people are allowed to do, is an act against our civil rights. Stop falling for this load of baloney. Kevin Sabet is a charlatan and a court jester in the world of Prohibitionists, who actually are doing their best to support the black market he speaks of. Big Pharma are responsible for this opiate-fueled explosion of death. They used lawyers from the DEA and the Dept of justice to discover a loophole that they could customize to their needs. They did it by changing about 1 word in a law.

    So, go ahead, listen to this star child of imagination, and follow along as he twists the heck out of logic, so he can seemingly make sense. He will make sense. if you don’t think about what he says, for too long.

  5. James Gunther

    October 1, 2018 at 1:03 pm

    Prescription opiates drugs like Oxycontin and Fentanyl damage our natural opioid system in our brain, leaving our bodies ability to fight pain on its own compromised. Cannabis does not damage this system, and repeated research has shown that states that make cannabis legally accessible to the public have lowered the amount of people taking prescription opioids. Here is the link to the video showing Dr Sanjay Gupta talking to a researcher who does MRI scans of the brain of those that died of opioid addiction and overdose And here is a video of Dr Sanjay Gupta saying that CBD can heal that damage Enough said.

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