The Danger of Laced Weed
When purchasing medical marijuana, it’s essential that you shop only licensed dispensaries because of the dangers of laced weed. You might save a few dollars by purchasing from the street, but you might be getting a lot more than you bargained for.
This past summer, law enforcement officials warned of laced marijuana that was spotted in Ohio and Canada. The substance looked just like regular cannabis, but under closer examination, it tested positive for fentanyl, heroin, Tramadol, and methamphetamine. Ingesting this combination of drugs can cause critical or even fatal reactions.
When you purchase your medical marijuana on the black market, you don’t know if you’re actually getting pure cannabis or something laced with dangerous additives. Black market sellers may lace a low-quality product to improve the psychoactive effects, or they may use chemicals to thicken the product and make their supply go further.
In 2019, the CDC investigated thousands of injuries and over 50 deaths related to vaping. Most of the products were black-market cannabis vape juices containing an additive called vitamin E acetate. The additive was used as a thickening agent, and the CDC now believes that that one simple ingredient is most likely responsible for the string of injuries and deaths. Vitamin E acetate has only been found in black-market products.
What Can Marijuana Be Laced With?
Cannabis may be laced with a variety of substances, including:
Glass: Tiny glass shards have been found in marijuana samples in the UK. It’s believed that the substance is used to increase the weight—and therefore the value—of the cannabis. Marijuana laced with glass may cause internal bleeding if the small shards are ingested.
PCP: Marijuana laced with Phencyclidine (PCP) has been known to cause severe psychotic episodes. Some recreational users dip their marijuana in PCP for a heightened psychoactive effect, but PCP can also be added to cannabis without the purchaser’s knowledge.
Formaldehyde: Like PCP, embalming fluid is sometimes used to increase the psychoactive effects of cannabis. While it may be successful in this respect, it can also lead to severe respiratory illness and even neurological damage.
Vitamin E Acetate: As previously noted, this issue is primarily limited to black-market vape juices. If you prefer to vaporize your medication, it’s very important that you only buy from licensed dispensaries. Even seemingly legitimate online sources may be fraudulent. Liquids with vitamin E acetate have been shown to cause severe lung injury or death.
This is just a sample of the contaminants you may find in street-purchased marijuana. Other substances that have been found in black-market cannabis include heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, and ketamine.
What About Marijuana Laced With Fentanyl?
Fentanyl-laced marijuana has become a hot topic, and numerous reports have emerged about deadly fentanyl exposure from seemingly harmless cannabis. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid, similar in composition to morphine but up to 100 times more potent. Fentanyl ingestion carries a high risk of fatal overdose.
Although the threat of fentanyl-laced marijuana has been overstated and exaggerated to some extent, there have nevertheless been isolated incidents in which cannabis samples tested positive for this dangerous synthetic opioid. Your odds of encountering laced weed with fentanyl are low, but it’s still another important reason to purchase from trusted, licensed sources.
Other Impurities Found in Cannabis
In some cases, cannabis may contain impurities not due to intentional lacing but due to low-quality cultivation. One report found that marijuana—even the type sold in licensed dispensaries—is often contaminated with heavy metals, pesticides, and fungi.
The presence of heavy metals can result when cannabis is grown in polluted soil. Contaminated soil may contain an array of metals including lead, chromium, arsenic, nickel, and mercury. Traces of these metals make their way into the herb. Although the risk of heavy metal poisoning is low, it’s still a possibility if the metals are present in high concentrations.
Short-term symptoms of heavy metal poisoning include vomiting, nausea, and confusion. Extended long-term exposure may lead to headaches, weakness, fatigue, joint pain, and constipation.
How to Know if You’ve Consumed Laced Weed
The side effects of laced weed vary depending on the substance, but there are a few specific signs to watch out for:
- Excessive intoxication or psychosis beyond what is reasonably expected from the product. Hallucinations, confusion, jitters, and disorientation are red flags.
- Nausea, vomiting, or other signs of illness. Normal use of cannabis should never make you sick.
- Excessive respiratory pain or discomfort. Observe any signs of unnatural pain in the chest, lungs, or throat.
- Prolonged multi-day symptoms like headache or weakness.
If you notice any of the aforementioned symptoms after consuming cannabis, see a doctor immediately.
How to Avoid Poor-Quality and Laced Marijuana
The most important thing is to always buy from a state-licensed dispensary or clinic. If your state doesn’t permit recreational use, you may be eligible for a medical marijuana card. More and more states are introducing medical marijuana programs every year.
For example, you can apply for a Missouri medical marijuana card. Though dispensary products aren’t always perfect, they are more likely to be free of dangerous foreign chemicals.
When purchasing from the legal market, the main things you have to be cautious of are the potential heavy metals and bacteria. Some states, like Washington, have imposed strict testing requirements to weed out impurities. Other states, like Colorado, still have no such quality-control requirements in place.
If you’re purchasing from a dispensary, always buy products that include a certificate of analysis (COA) from a reputable third-party lab. This type of documentation ensures that the product was tested for impurities and contains the proper concentrations of cannabinoids as advertised. Even when you’re buying from trusted sources, you should always know what you’re getting.
When you know what you’re purchasing, you can medicate with confidence and ensure the desired effects.