The delta 8 gummies and other edible cannabis products identified last week by a Pennsylvania county prosecutor as containing fentanyl and heroin may not have contained those drugs at all. Meanwhile, the manufacturers and seller of the legal hemp-based products are left dealing with thousands of news reports that probably won’t be corrected.
Montgomery County, PA, District Attorney Kevin Steele didn’t apologize for his accusations, but he has walked back his warning about three brands of delta 8 edibles sold at Tobacco Hut stores in the county north of Philadelphia. The results were based on ultra-sensitive portable testing equipment calibrated to pick up 1/100th of a nanogram of fentanyl—that’s 1/100th of 1 billionth of 1 gram.
You would have to eat 200 million gummies containing 1/100th of a nanogram of fentanyl to consume a lethal two-milligram dose.
When tested in an ordinary laboratory designed for testing drugs, none of the seized products registered as positive for fentanyl or heroin.
For anyone who’s seen those articles about the “fentanyl and heroin in delta-8 #THC gummies,” this info has ONCE AGAIN been retracted by the reporting DA’s office because they did “field tests” that were then disproven by lab analysis over the weekend.
— DanceSafe (@DanceSafe) February 28, 2023
“At this point,” said Steele in his press release, “I don’t have any definitive answers, but what I do know is the public needs to be wary of these THC products that are produced in an unregulated industry and in varying settings.”
So, to paraphrase Steele’s correction: we didn’t find any problems, but you should be terrified anyway. He went on to say that delta 8 products “could be very dangerous” for a teenager who “eats a handful at once.”
That might be true, but the danger would be them getting very high—not dying from an overdose, as they might if the products actually contained meaningful quantities of fentanyl. Steele’s warning would apply equally to any product that might be risky if consumed in high quantities, but also doesn’t contain fentanyl.
Rather than apologize for smearing the names of four companies, District Attorney Steele said the public should still fear their products, but for other reasons. The question now is whether the Tobacco Hut chain or the legal hemp product manufacturers named by Steele will sue the D.A. and Montgomery County for reputational damage.
Fentanyl has become a modern-day drug boogeyman, and fentanyl panic in law enforcement is a known phenomenon, as evidenced by regular news stories about police officers having anxiety-induced symptoms they blame on fentanyl exposure.