Oneida County Sheriff Robert M. Maciol issued a warning Friday afternoon that the deadly opioid fentanyl was found laced into a quantity of marijuana in Sullivan County.
Maciol said fentanyl is believed to be linked to a majority of overdose deaths around the country in the opioid crisis, where fentanyl is typically mixed with heroin. Maciol said fentanyl mixed with marijuana is “relatively new.”
Sullivan County is located north of New York City.
According to the Times Herald-Record newspaper, the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office reported that a deputy on patrol at the Walmart in the Town of Thompson found a car parked facing the wrong direction in front of the store Monday night. When the deputy approached the vehicle, authorities said the driver fled into the store, then was taken into custody a short time later.
Sullivan County deputies told the newspaper that the man was found with seven grams of marijuana, which was later tested and found to contain some amount of fentanyl. Authorities said the man claimed his drug dealer told him it was a “very potent” batch of marijuana, according to the report.
Upon learning of the reported encounter, Sheriff Maciol said he reached out to the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office to confirm that they had found marijuana laced with fentanyl.
“With fentanyl-laced marijuana now confirmed to be in New York State, I am extremely concerned for the safety of anyone using marijuana. Everyone needs to be aware that the potential of getting fentanyl-laced marijuana is possible and the side effects can be deadly,” Maciol said in his warning.
“We have seen the tragic results of what heroin and fentanyl mixed together can do and I fear for what will be happening now that it’s being mixed into marijuana.”
Maciol is currently serving as president of the New York State Sheriff’s Association.
One of his first major acts as president was to spearhead a statewide series of press conferences in early February decrying the possibility that New York State might legalize recreational marijuana. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has made such legislation a focal point of his new term.
In a March 26 article on Buzzfeed News, fentanyl-laced marijuana was labeled a “myth.”
Buzzfeed News said White House opioid crisis czar Kellyanne Conway warned of fentanyl-laced marijuana during a March press conference.
The news agency said they traced the White House’s comment back to since-debunked claims of the drug combination from Canada from 2015.
Buzzfeed News also cited a senior chemist with the federal Drug Enforcement Agency from early March who said fentanyl has not shown up in any marijuana seized by the DEA.
Likewise, the fact-checking website Snopes.com also has an article online debunking anecdotal police reports of fentanyl-laced marijuana from 2017.
Both the Buzzfeed News and the Snopes.com articles were published prior to the drug reportedly being found in Sullivan County.