Marijuana could contain fentanyl: RCMP

The fentanyl forum’s panel consisted of (left to right): Northern Health Mental Health and Addictions Counselor, Heather Whalen, Northern Health Community Health Nurse, Bernita Nesjan, B.C. Ambulance Service’s (BCAS), Dakota Stone, B.C. Emergency Health Services’ Community Paramedic, Jasmin Gasser, and RCMP Member, Chris Gallant. / EVAN MATTHEWS

by EVAN MATTHEWS

When asked if fentanyl is the now biggest reason to fear recreational drugs, Valemount RCMP Officer, Chris Gallant said, “To answer the question simply, yes.”

The Valemount Secondary School hosted a fentanyl forum to educate residents on what fentanyl is, what an overdose looks like and how to reverse the effects of an overdose. A similar presentation was given to students earlier in the day.

Principal Dan Kenkel emceed the forum and the panel consisted of the B.C. Ambulance Service’s (BCAS), Dakota Stone, B.C. Emergency Health Services’ (BCEHS) Community Paramedic, Jasmin Gasser, Northern Health Mental Health and Addictions Counselor, Heather Whalen, Northern Health Community Health Nurse, Bernita Nesjan, and RCMP Officer, Chris Gallant.

Fentanyl is a man-made synthetic opioid, which means the drug is made in a lab, but engages the same receptors in the brain as other significant painkillers such as oxycodone, morphine and heroine. RCMP says much of the fentanyl in Canada is coming from unregulated labs in China.

Over the last year, traces of fentanyl have been found in a variety of street drugs including cocaine, MDMA (ecstasy), oxycontin and heroin, Gallant said, but he added RCMP now have reason to believe pot isn’t safe either.

“I’ve heard people say, ‘Oh well, it is just pot’,” said Gallant.

In November, Vancouver Police Department Constable, Brian Monague, told the CBC that VPD had not seized fentanyl-laced marijuana, though he noted he could not speak for other police departments.

In the same month, the RCMP issued a press release stating the organization had reason to believe “that there is marijuana available for sale in Masset that is laced with fentanyl.”

Masset, B.C. is located on Graham Island — one of the 150 islands making up the archipelago of Haida Gwaii.

However, RCMP Media Relations Officer, Madonna Saunderson, said RCMP has not actually seized fentanyl-laced marijuana to date. Saunderson would not elaborate as to what reason the RCMP believes fentanyl-laced pot is for sale is Masset.

When asked if fentanyl is the now biggest reason to fear recreational drugs, Valemount RCMP Officer, Chris Gallant said, “To answer the question simply, yes.”

The problem with fentanyl is many people are recreationally ingesting drugs like ecstasy, MDMA, cocaine, heroine or oxycodone, all of which have the potential to be laced or cut with fentanyl unbeknownst to the user.

Dosage is an issue, as most drug users have no way of knowing how much fentanyl they’re ingesting.

The drug — which is 50 to 100 times stronger than heroin or morphine — has been an epidemic sweeping much of the lower mainland, as well as many other major Canadian centres.

Fentanyl started popping up in 2015 but became a true crisis 2016, as there were roughly 800 overdose deaths reported in the province by year’s end — most of which were in the lower mainland.

“Overdose calls used to be the scariest calls to take because usually there is more going on than just an overdose,” said Dakota Stone, who was born in Valemount, but now works in the lower mainland as a dispatcher in a B.C. Ambulance Service (BCAS) Dispatch Operations Center.

Dakota Stone, a originally from Valemount now working as a B.C. Emergency Health Services dispatcher in the lower mainland, discusses a typical fentanyl call. / EVAN MATTHEWS

Stone says the patient’s environment is often chaotic.

“Often there are other people in the room who are also high on drugs, yelling at their friend, but yelling won’t wake them up,” he said.

There has since been one confirmed fentanyl overdose in Valemount, and the person fully recovered, according to RCMP.

“We don’t have a drug problem in Valemount,” said RCMP Officer Gallant.

“But drugs do exist here,” he said, noting that because Valemount is on a major highway corridor, some drugs stay in town while others don’t.

Though a scary topic, the fentanyl forum isn’t intended to instill fear in the community, Kenkel says, but rather to be proactive in educating the community on what fentanyl is, what an overdose looks like, and how to reverse the effects.

Naloxone kits reverse the effects of fentanyl and other opioids, and are now carried by all first responders in the province.

Local businesses have asked about having naloxone kits on-hand.

“It’s definitely the direction we want to be heading,” says Kenkel.

The panel’s presentation is available on VCTV.

  • Nicolai Hilckmann

    Sounds like BS to me. I mean the police have been lying about cannabis for decades, it’s hard to take anything they say about it seriously.

  • Rod M. Kerr

    It is a plot by the drug Lords to get everyone hooked. Even the pot smokers.

  • I don’t understand the fear-mongering about fentanyl-laced cannabis, considering no-one seems to have ever encountered it, including police. “In November, Vancouver Police Department Constable, Brian Monague, told the CBC that VPD had not seized fentanyl-laced marijuana… RCMP Media Relations Officer, Madonna Saunderson, said RCMP has not actually seized fentanyl-laced marijuana to date. Saunderson would not elaborate as to what reason the RCMP believes fentanyl-laced pot is for sale is Masset.”