Nashville Forensic Lab Confirms Fentanyl-Laced Marijuana Found in Tennessee
It's no longer a rumor: The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation confirmed that Fentanyl-laced marijuana has been found in Tennessee at one of its forensic labs.
Fentanyl is a powerful, narcotic painkiller considered deadly when administered even in small doses, and authorities say it and its derivatives are often imported and used by criminals to create counterfeit pills or to mix with other illegal drugs.
According to the TBI, Fentanyl had primarily been identified in samples of cocaine, heroin or in clandestine pills compounded to resemble legitimate prescription opioids.
Up until this point, though, marijuana laced with Fentanyl was thought to be a widespread rumor. This is no longer the case.
According to Tommy Farmer, the TBI Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Division and Director of the Tennessee Dangerous Drugs Task Force, a marijuana sample turned into the TBI Crime Lab in Nashville tested positive for Fentanyl.
Farmer said his understanding was that the sample originated in the Cookeville-Cumberland County area, saying the combination is extremely dangerous.
"It’s absolute Russian Roulette. You don’t know what, you don’t know how, you don’t know when, but I promise you, each time that you do it, each time that you roll the dice, your odds greatly diminish and stack against you," he said.
Farmer said a steady supply of marijuana (not specifically laced with Fentanyl, though) has been pouring in from multiple states, emphasizing ones that supported marijuana legalization in some form.
"There’s about 27, 28 states right now that have passed some form of legalization. We’re seeing it shipped in from Oregon, from Washington State, from Colorado, from California in amounts that are absolutely staggering," he said.
Rumors of Fentanyl-laced marijuana have circulated across the country for more than a year now.
On an October 2017 edition of Inside Tennessee, former DEA agent Neil Morganstern was asked about Fentanyl appearing in other drugs.
“One of the things I want to get out and have students know is right here in the state of Tennessee, we’ve had incidents of marijuana laced with Fentanyl,” he said.
10News ran a VERIFY article on that claim. The TBI couldn't verify it at the time, though, saying forensic scientists at its three labs statewide had never come across any drug samples of marijuana laced with Fentanyl.
Similarly, DEA Resident Agent in Charge Michael Sarhatt said no DEA labs had found it nationwide, either.
Morganstern said he based his comments on an August article quoting Matthew Stowe, a district attorney in West Tennessee. He was quoted saying marijuana laced with Fentanyl was coming into the state in "…vast, vast quantities."
In many online sources, people claim marijuana dealers are lacing their product with Fentanyl for a stronger high.
Both Morganstern and Stowe said they were worried marijuana laced with Fentanyl could prove to be a deadly combination, as the opioid can kill in extremely small doses, and they worry someone smoking laced marijuana could unknowingly overdose very quickly.
T.J. Jordan, Assistant Director for TBI's Drug Investigation Division, expressed concern with finding Fentanyl in any non-opioid drugs.
“For some time now, we’ve warned about the dangers surrounding Fentanyl for those struggling with opioid or prescription drug addiction," Jordan said. "This submission (of Fentanyl mixed with cocaine), however, changes the game. It proves the serious risk now also applies to recreational drugs beyond opioids. To be blunt: What you might buy and use, thinking it’s a good time, could cost you your life.”
Sarhatt said it’s important to have the drug discussion with your kids early. He says if they’re old enough to have their own cellphone, parents should have the discussion.