UKCIA has been warning about contaminated cannabis for over a year now. Back in December 2006 we were a alerted to the “Grit weed” problem – herbal cannabis containing microscopic glass beads. Things, it seems, have just taken a turn for the worse – much worse.
The April 10th issue of the New England Journal of Medicine has reported that herbal cannabis in Europe has been found to be contaminated with lead shot which has produced casualties. Read the report here
The report states “Recently, during a period of 3 to 4 months, 29 patients (16 to 33 years of age) were admitted to four different hospitals in the greater Leipzig area (population, approximately 650,000) with classic signs and symptoms of lead intoxication. Twenty of these patients were admitted to our hospital (University Hospital Leipzig), 16 on an emergency basis (Table 1). The patients presented with abdominal cramps, nausea, anemia of varying severity, and fatigue. Most patients had basophilic stippling and a “Burton’s line,” and some had neurologic symptoms. In other hospitals, one patient had severe encephalopathy with hallucinations and peripheral neuropathy with permanent extensor palsy in the forearm, and another patient underwent exploratory laparoscopy.
The cause was traced to contaminated cannabis which these people had smoked. Lead is being added because it not only increases weight, but is all but invisible by virtue of its colour.
“The current working hypothesis of the police is that because of its high specific gravity and inconspicuous grayish color, lead was used to increase the weight of street marijuana sold by the gram and thereby to maximize profits among dealers. In the material that was obtained, the lead content on average was 10% by weight, which translates into a profit increase of approximately €1,000 ($1,500.00) per kilogram of marijuana. Lead particles smoked in a joint, which can have a core temperature of 1200°C,2 are very effectively absorbed in the respiratory tract. The medical community, including pediatricians,3 should consider adulterated marijuana as a potential source of lead intoxication.”
There is every reason to assume cannabis in this country will also be contaminated in this way. As we discovered a year ago, the glass bead scam was observed all over Europe, it was happening on a massive scale. Such is the nature of the illegal cannabis trade.
Indeed, the UKCIA forum is awash with reports of suspect cannabis, so we have every reason treat this situation as urgent.
As we have said many times, illegal cannabis is not a controlled drug, because of its illegality it is a totally unregulated product. Just as with moonshine during American alcohol prohibition the illegal trade is producing a product of great uncertainty and which is capable of doing far more harm to the users than the pure drug ever could.
We will, of course, attempt to draw the British government’s attention to this situation, but in all honesty they probably already know. The fact they are not issuing a warning is disturbing to put it mildly, but of course to do so would draw attention to the dangers the policy of prohibition causes, just at the time when the politicians want to sound tough by tinkering with the classification of cannabis. Returning cannabis to class B is, of course, not going to help solve this problem.
UKCIA advice is to be very careful if you buy or sell cannabis which you cannot be sure was grown by someone you can trust. As of now we know of no way to test for this contamination and there is certainly no way to clean the sample.
Thanks to the Transform blog for alerting UKCIA to this situation.