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Canopy Growth CEO clarifies comments on fentanyl in illicit cannabis

Bruce Linton, CEO of Canopy Growth, says he would have preferred to not have referenced fentanyl but stands by his assertion about unregulated weed. (Paul Daly / The Canadian Press files) (CP)

Bruce Linton, CEO of Canopy Growth, says he would have preferred to not have referenced fentanyl but stands by his assertion about unregulated weed. (Paul Daly / The Canadian Press files)

Bruce Linton, CEO of Canopy Growth Corporation, says his recent comment on the possibility of black market cannabis being contaminated with the opioid drug fentanyl was informed by information from police forces in Ontario.

Linton made the comment during a May 31 TV interview by Fox Business Network host Stuart Varney, in which the cannabis executive argued in favour of government regulation of cannabis. The fentanyl comment came later in the segment, in response to Varney's question about the increasing THC content of cannabis over time.

"What happens is, if you buy it in the illicit markets, sometimes it may be extremely strong, you don't know what you're getting," Linton said.

"Sometimes the supply chain may cause it to be adulterated with other activations, could be fentanyl. And so these are the sorts of things where, if you don't regulate it, how strong it is is a big question."

Health Canada's Drug Analysis Service, which runs labs that test drugs seized by Canadian police, has never confirmed a single case of cannabis contaminated with fentanyl in Canada.

"As of May 31, 2019, Health Canada has only needed to test cannabis for the presence of suspected opioids, including fentanyl, in a small number of samples," a Health Canada spokeperson told The Leaf News in a statement on Tuesday.

"The analyses concluded there was no fentanyl/opioids in the samples."

In an interview with The Leaf News Tuesday, Linton said he was "relying on publicly issued statements issued by various southern Ontario police forces," including a recent claim by Waterloo, Ont. police that critics say was highly misleading, as well as an unconfirmed claim from police in Milton, Ont. that two teenagers overdosed after using opioid-tainted cannabis.

If he got to do the interview over again, Linton suggested he might not have referenced fentanyl specifically.

"Would I have preferred to say, 'Anything could be on your (illicit) cannabis, because the supply chain is absolutely ungoverned'? Yes."

But the CEO of the world's most valuable government-regulated cannabis producer stood by his main point, that cannabis products produced without any regulatory oversight could potentially contain unknown and unwanted additives — or, at the very least, that the potency of unregulated cannabis products might not be as advertised.

"The illicit-trade cannabis, to say that, 'Well, it's just marijuana' — no. It's not," he said.

"We don't know. Does it have pesticides, fungicides, herbicides? There's at least one word in there that caught people's attention. My point is much broader, which is, if you are getting something through a channel that has absolutely no controls, you have no clue what you're getting and you should question that process."


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