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Myth-Busting Fentanyl in Cannabis

By: Lucy Connery MPH

Over the past decade, fentanyl has been a primary driver of opioid overdose deaths across the United States. Fentanyl is a highly potent, synthetic (or lab-made) opioid; medical fentanyl is the preferred opioid pain medication in medical settings due to its effectiveness and standardized safety precautions. Conversely, illicitly manufactured fentanyl has no safety precautions in place; illicit fentanyl is often mixed with other drugs in unknown concentrations, increasing the risk of fatal overdose. There have been rising concerns about cannabis-laced fentanyl in the media and across communities in the United States; however, most of these concerns are unfounded.

According to the New York State Office of Cannabis Management, there has never been a verified case of fentanyl contaminating cannabis (2023). However, the New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS) reports that there has been one lab-confirmed case of cannabis with fentanyl in 2021; it was determined that this case was a result of cross-contamination and likely not a deliberate effort to add fentanyl to the cannabis supply (2023). National agencies such as the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) have not released any formal statements confirming the risk of fentanyl exposure through marijuana. SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) for 2021 and 2022 does not include any reports on fentanyl exposure from cannabis and instead highlights the risk of fentanyl being sold as heroin or fake prescription pills. Additionally, the DEA’s 2024 National Drug Threat Assessment does not identify fentanyl-laced cannabis as a public health threat (U.S. Department of Justice, 2024). Rather, the report highlights that fentanyl is more often mixed with drugs like cocaine, methamphetamines, xylazine, and other opioids.

These reports may be a relief to some, but many communities and news sources still believe that the marijuana supply is being contaminated with fentanyl. Notably, if fentanyl were contaminating the cannabis supply, the ways in which individuals typically use marijuana would eliminate most of the risk for fentanyl exposure (Aussem, 2023; Wornell, 2023; Zagorski, 2021). For example, fentanyl is destroyed when it is burned/exposed to a direct flame; therefore, smoking marijuana laced with fentanyl would not present a risk for an opioid overdose (Aussem, 2023; Wornell, 2023; Zagorski, 2021).  Exposing fentanyl to direct flame is too hot and destroys the drug, but vape pen temperatures are too low to effectively vaporize fentanyl (Aussem, 2023; Zagorski, 2021). Another common way to ingest cannabis is through baking it into foods, creating ‘edibles’. If, for some reason, fentanyl was added to edibles, the liver would need to break down the food first. This process is slow, and the body will naturally gradually break down the contents of the food for a lower exposure over time. After being broken down by the liver, the likelihood that any fentanyl would reach the brain/opioid receptors is very low (Aussem, 2023; Zagorski, 2021).

This concern around fentanyl in cannabis, although warranted, further perpetuates shame and stigma around substance use (OASAS, 2023). According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics (NCDAS), 45% of Americans report trying marijuana at least once (n.d.). Although no substance use comes without risk, perpetuating false concerns about fentanyl contaminating marijuana may create feelings of mistrust between the community and healthcare professionals. Being national leaders in health information, it is important that the DEA and SAMHSA release reports on the risk of fentanyl exposure through marijuana use, no matter how minimal. It is vital to have open and honest dialogue about drug user health between the community and organizations working to address substance use disorders so that individuals understand the risks associated with health behaviors.

If you use drugs, it is important to test your supply every time you use. Order free fentanyl and xylazine test strips, as well as life-saving naloxone (Narcan) on the MATTERS website. If you need supplies right now, find a MATTERS harm reduction vending machine in a community near you by clicking here.


Aussem P. (2023, November). Clearing the haze: Marijuana and fentanyl. Partnership to End Addiction.

National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics (n.d.). Marijuana addiction: Rates & usage statistics.

New York State Office of Cannabis Management (2023, October). Cannabis and fentanyl: Facts and unknowns.

New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports (2023, March 22). Fentanyl test strip guidance.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) (n.d.) 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) releases. Retrieved from:

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) (n.d.) 2022 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) releases. Retrieved from:

United States Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration (2024 May). Drug Enforcement Administration national drug threat assessment 2024. Retrieved from:

Wornell, T. (2023, February 28). Marijuana laced with fentanyl? Claims unfounded, doctor says. NewsNation.

Zagorski C. (2021, July 20). The pernicious myth of fentanyl-laced cannabis. Filter Magazine.