London

Pot protest organizer challenges warning for marijuana users to carry naloxone kits

The organizer of London's 4/20 cannabis celebrations is critical of local health authorities for encouraging pot users to carry naloxone kits in the event that their marijuana is laced with fentanyl.

Eric Shepperd questions test results showing marijuana laced with fentanyl

A little encouragement from a friend or family member, Howe said, is usually a lot more effective than an advertising campaign in convincing someone to vote for the first time. (Dave Chidley/Canadian Press)

An organizer of London's annual 4/20 cannabis celebrations is speaking out after an official with the Middlesex-London Health Unit encouraged pot users to carry naloxone kits in case their marijuana is laced with the powerful opioid fentanyl.

The warning was issued last week after the health unit, along with Canadian Mental Health Association, Addiction Services Thames Valley and London police reported on the potentially lethal opioid found in the urine of heroin and marijuana users.

Eric Shepperd agrees that pot users should carry a naloxone kit but for different reasons than local authorities are citing.

"Yes, please do get a naloxone kit, but it's not because of fear of fentanyl in your cannabis," he said.

The medical officer of health for the London region, Dr. Chris Mackie, has defended the warning, saying the health unit acted on reliable information.

"It is possible that users are misrepresenting what they're using but we're seeing this from more than once source, so it's enough to be concerned," said Mackie.

Shepperd, a recreational pot user, is skeptical that fentanyl is being added to marijuana.

"Fentanyl is very expensive and cannabis is not expensive at all. There'd be no reason to add an expensive drug to an inexpensive drug and then sell it for any non-intentional reasons," he said.

The tests were done in July at the Addiction Services Thames Valley Suboxone Clinic. It "detected fentanyl in people who reported using only heroin and in others who reported only smoking marijuana," according to the MLHU.

"Who knows what this test is actually showing or not. I don't doubt the reliability of the scientific testing happening here, but there are number of reasons why false positives may actually show up here," said Shepperd.

Mackie told CBC's London Morning that the discovery of fentanyl mixed with marijuana is "very, very concerning".

"I'm really worried that some young person who thinks they're just experimenting is going to end up taking an overdose of something that kills them," said Mackie.

Shepperd said the warning could cause unnecessary panic about pot.