Premier Clark’s claim pot laced with fentanyl not true, say police

By Mike Laanela, 

November 18, 2016

Clark’s office says premier simply repeating info learned from VPD, RCMP, media and other emergency responders

It’s a claim that’s been repeated so often — and now  all the way up to the office of B.C.’s premier — it’s often assumed to be true.

But police and health officials in B.C. say there is no evidence to back up Premier Christy Clark’s comments yesterday in Ottawa that marijuana laced with fentanyl has been found in B.C.

Clark made the claim after meeting with federal officials to highlight her concerns about the fentanyl overdose crisis currently sweeping B.C.

The premier said police are finding traces of deadly fentanyl in all sorts of illegal drugs from cocaine to heroin to marijuana — and it’s those combinations of drugs that are killing people.

“I think regulating marijuana is even more important now when we’re finding fentanyl in marijuana,” Clark said Thursday at a press conference in Ottawa.

But it turns out Clark was likely repeating some erroneous information, according to Vancouver Police Constable Brian Montague, who said while it has been suspected and raised by police as a concern, the claim has never actually been proven to be true.

“I can’t speak for other police departments and I can’t say that fentanyl has not, is not, or couldn’t be placed in marijuana, but I can tell you the VPD has not seized marijuana that has been tested and shown to be laced with fentanyl,” Montague said on Friday.

He notes, however, while police have seized fentanyl along with drugs like cocaine, heroin, meth and marijuana, they’ve never actually found fentanyl in the marijuana.

“This is a constant battle to try and keep this information accurate,” he said.

“There have been comments made in the past regarding fentanyl in marijuana that may have been the belief at the time based on the information available, but it has shown not to be the case and we continue to try and correct any misinformation.”
RCMP warnings lacked evidence

According to Premier Clark’s office, she was simply repeating information learned from Vancouver police, RCMP, media and other emergency responders.

Even the CBC has reported anecdotal claims from community organizations.

The premier’s office pointed to an RCMP warning last week that marijuana laced with fentanyl may be circulating in the Haida Gwaii community of Masset.

“Masset RCMP has reason to believe that there is marijuana available for sale in Masset that is laced with fentanyl,” said the statement.

But Cpl. Madonna Saunderson told the CBC the warning was based solely on concerns raised by community members and there “was never any marijuana seized or handed to police” to back up the claims.

Likewise, at the RCMP’s provincial headquarters in Surrey, Cpl. Janelle Shoilet says they have heard plenty of stories, but none have been proven true.

“We have even had individuals present with opioid overdose symptoms that have claimed they have only consumed marijuana,” said Janelle.

“However, we have never seized or confirmed via chemical analysis any marijuana laced with or contaminated with fentanyl,
‘No official confirmation of any cases to date’

The BC Coroners Service also confirmed its members have found no evidence of pot laced with fentanyl killing anyone in B.C.

“We cannot confirm any deaths that fit this pattern, and aren’t aware of any,” said spokesperson Barb McLintock.

“But that being said, all we really know is what was in someone’s bloodstream after death. A toxicology report doesn’t tell us when or how they consumed the substances involved.”

Several other sources also said they actually have no evidence either, including Patricia Daly, the chief public health officer with Vancouver Coastal Health.

A similar lack of evidence was even confirmed by the provincial Ministry of Health.

“There is no official confirmation of any cases to date,” said spokesperson Lori Cascaden.
One possible explanation

It all raises the question, why are the rumours persisting without any evidence?

Cascaden offers one possible explanation.

“There is the occasional report of overdoses where people reported taking marijuana, but responded to naloxone (the most effective antidote for a fentanyl overdose),” she said.

That might be because they are not comfortable admitting to using other types of harder drugs, she says.

“In such a situation, we would suspect an opioid was involved, but testing hasn’t been conducted in any case that we are aware of at this time.”
‘A shadow of a possibility’

B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Morris said on Friday that he hadn’t spoken to the premier about where she got her information, but he said, even if there was no hard evidence, her message was worthwhile.

“I’m looking at it from a public safety perspective here, and if there’s a shadow of a possibility that fentanyl can be laced into marijuana or any other substance that we have out there, we need to be as vocal and vigilant as we can to make sure people are aware of that, so that’s where I’m coming from,” he said.

“You know, based on my experience in the police force, I’ve seen lots of drug trafficking locations where they’ve taken large quantities of drugs and repackaged them into smaller packages to sell and the cross contamination is unbelievable sometimes,” said Morris, adding that the toll fentanyl has taken on B.C. lives has been enormous.

“If we have to apologize at the end of the day that maybe we overstated a couple things, I would rather do that than suffer the consequences.”

With files from Rafferty Baker.

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