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The Question

With the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation discovery of fentanyl in a sample of cocaine, rumors of marijuana laced with the synthetic opioid are resurfacing.

On WBIR’s Inside Tennessee two weeks ago, former Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agent Neil Morganstern was asked about fentanyl appearing in other drugs.

Retired DEA agent Neil Morganstern on Inside Tennessee.

“One of the things I want to get out and have students know is right here in the state of Tennessee, we’ve had incidents of marijuana laced with fentanyl,” he said.

But the 10News Verify team wanted to know – where are those cases?

A lethal dose of fentanyl.

Lab Results

10News reached out to the DEA and TBI laboratories, which would test any drug samples taken in the field.

TBI said in all three labs statewide, no forensic scientists have found any marijuana laced with fentanyl.

DEA Resident Agent in Charge Michael Sarhatt said that no DEA labs have found it nationwide either.

Further, the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security said it has seen no cases.

"While we have not seen reported cases in our department, we know it is on the National radar and we are paying close attention to what is going on across the country," said department spokesperson Megan Buell." This allows our department to better prepare for these situations."

Knox County District Attorney Charme Allen's office confirmed it has had no cases involving fentanyl-laced marijuana.

Going to the Source

Rumors of fentanyl-laced marijuana have been popping up around the country for months now, but Morganstern said he based his comments on an August article quoting Matthew Stowe, a district attorney in West Tennessee. He was quoted saying marijuana laced with fentanyl was coming into the state in "…vast, vast quantities."

In many online sources, people claim marijuana dealers are lacing their product with fentanyl for a stronger high.

DA Matthew Stowe was quoted on fentanyl-laced marijuana in West Tennessee.

Stowe’s office was not able to point to any court cases with this evidence on file, and Stowe himself did not return calls for comment.

Other Dangers

But both Morganstern and Sarhatt expressed concerns that marijuana laced with fentanyl could prove to be a deadly combination. Fentanyl can kill in extremely small doses, and they worry someone smoking laced marijuana could unknowingly overdose very quickly.

Michael Sarhatt is DEA Resident Agent in Charge based in Knoxville.

“It’s totally feasible that you could lace marijuana with fentanyl,” said Sarhatt.

Both men believe it’s a near inevitability that laced marijuana will come to East Tennessee, and are very concerned.

“It takes such a minute amount to kill somebody, I don’t know how else to say it,” said Sarhatt. “We are deathly afraid of that ending up in any drug, whether it’s heroine, cocaine, marijuana – it doesn’t matter.”

He said when it does come to East Tennessee, it will be evident. In a recent survey of Knox County Schools students, one in five admitted to using marijuana in the 30 days prior.

“The immediate impact is people are going to start dying,” said Sarhatt. “Kids are going to start dying ... at some point, we’re going to start losing kids.”

T.J. Jordan, Assistant Director for TBI's Drug Investigation Division, expressed concern with finding fentanyl in any non-opioid drugs.

“For some time now, we’ve warned about the dangers surrounding fentanyl for those struggling with opioid or prescription drug addiction," Jordan said. "This submission (of fentanyl mixed with cocaine), however, changes the game. It proves the serious risk now also applies to recreational drugs beyond opioids. To be blunt: What you might buy and use, thinking it’s a good time, could cost you your life.”

Sarhatt said it’s important to have the drug discussion with your kids early. He says if they’re old enough to have their own cellphone, parents should have the discussion.

Bottom Line

Sarhatt noted that DEA labs test drugs from large busts, so it’s possible marijuana laced with fentanyl exists already in small amounts. Still, with no positive tests proving it’s existence, 10News can verify the original claim is false – there’s no proof marijuana laced with fentanyl is in Tennessee.


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