Laced weed is another way to describe cannabis that has been altered with another substance. Despite what sensationalist headlines would Drugs charity The Loop says it's worried the sweets could be putting buyers at risk of death.
How to tell if your cannabis is laced
Laced weed is another way to describe cannabis that has been altered with another substance.
Despite what sensationalist headlines would have you believe, verifiable cases of laced cannabis are exceedingly rare.
If you’re reading this article in a post-smoking panic – take a deep breath. It is possible the anxiety and worry you’re experiencing is from the THC itself, not a contaminant. Now take another couple deep breaths and have a bite of a snack or a sip of drink.
While examples of laced cannabis are rare, it has happened and the dangers can be real.
How can you tell if your weed is laced?
It can be hard to tell if your cannabis is laced by looking at it, if not impossible. Some substances will change the odor or the appearance of the bud, while others won’t leave a trace. Avoid any cannabis that looks like it has been powdered, dusted, coated or sprayed. If your bud smells strange or harsh, like chemicals, it may have been laced or contaminated.
Of course, discerning what has been sprayed or powdered on cannabis flower can be difficult to the untrained eye. Because cannabis has a pungent odor, often even described as gas, diesel, or fuel, not everyone will be able to identify an abnormal odor. And because cannabis can naturally appear to be covered in crystals due the the resin-filled glands on the outside of the flower – the trichomes – the average consumer may not be able to distinguish them from powder or sprayed on chemicals.
But smell and appearance can’t catch everything and the only sure way to tell if cannabis has been laced is with a series of laboratory tests. If you’re unsure about the quality of your cannabis or suspect for whatever reason that it may have been laced, err on the side of caution and throw it out – even if it hurts!
What could weed be laced with?
There are a number of substances that weed could be laced with.
It’s important to remember that it’s rare to come into contact with laced weed, even on the illegal market. People sell drugs to earn a profit, not to harm people.The practice of mixing in harder drugs like opiates with weed is quite uncommon because these harder drugs are inherently more profitable than cannabis. Therefore, unless the dealer is openly selling laced cannabis at a higher markup, there would be very little economic incentive to lace weed with hard drugs. This is not to say that it doesn’t happen, but simply that this is not a common business tactic; and given the risks of consuming laced weed (which can include death), this can even put drug dealers at risk of being prosecuted for selling tainted drugs.
- Psychedelics drugs
- LSD (Acid)
- PCP (Angel dust)
- -K2/Spice (synthetic cannabinoids)
- -Byproducts of Delta-8 production
- Other substances (aka contaminated)
- Crushed glass
- Laundry detergent
- Food coloring
- Embalming fluid 1
Can edibles be laced?
Yes, edibles can also be laced. In April of 2022, a woman in the United Kingdom died after eating a gummy made from synthetic cannabinoids. If you suspect you or a friend has ingested laced edibles, contact emergency services.
However, it’s important to note that a high-dose of THC infused edibles can also cause intense experiences. High doses of THC can have intensely unpleasant (but not fatal) side effects including anxiety, paranoia, vomiting, shortness of breath and overall discomfort. Some people who green out on THC even report thinking they “were going to die.”
Symptoms of having smoked laced weed
Symptoms of having smoked laced weed will depend on what other substance was in the bud.
Assuming you know what it feels like to be high, remember that high levels of THC can cause anxiety and paranoia. These symptoms are normal and somewhat common with weed. But if you notice other abnormal symptoms like chest pain, passing out, slurred speech, profound sedation or hallucations, seek medical attention and consider tossing the weed if there is no other explanation for these symptoms.
Of particular concern are side effects typically associated with opioid use rather than cannabis. The World Health Organization defines three symptoms of an opioid overdose:
- pinpoint pupils
- reduced, shallow breathing (known respiratory depression)
If you notice these symptoms in anyone after smoking cannabis, contact emergency medical professionals.
Additionally, it is rare that cannabis causes visual and auditory hallucinations, and experiencing these during a THC-induced high may suggest laced weed, or it could be related to an underlying risk of experiencing psychosis. In this case, it is best to avoid THC and discuss this experience and alternatives to cannabis with a health professional. 2
How to avoid laced weed
- In the legal market, you can usually request a COA (certificate of analysis) to see the lab test results for your flower, prerolls, and edibles.
- If you don’t have access to the legal market, get to know your source. Are you buying from the grower themselves or someone else down the supply chain?
- Avoid pre-ground weed if you don’t know your source, as it can be easier to lace than whole buds.
- Trust your instincts. If you suspect for any reason your bud has been tampered with, throw it out.
- Always try a small amount of any new cannabis before diving in, especially if it was bought from an unknown source.
- Grow your own. There is no better way to know that weed is grown right and clean than doing it yourself
The easiest way to avoid laced weed is to grow your own bud or get a COA on legal cannabis products. But this isn’t always possible, so it’s important to be aware of the rare but potential risks. Consume cannabis mindfully and avoid products when you don’t know where they’re coming from. Monitor your dosage when trying new products and remember don’t freak out; cases of laced cannabis are few and far between.
Experts issue warning over cannabis sweets laced with Spice
It’s after a 23-year-old woman died after eating a synthetic cannabis sweet that she’d ordered on a messaging app.
A man’s since been charged with possession with intent to supply Class B synthetic cannabinoid.
The Loop says it’s worried about a rise in the popularity of cannabis sweets known as gummies.
That’s because without testing, it’s impossible to tell what’s inside them.
“People are taking advantage of this,” Guy Jones, a senior scientist at The Loop, tells Newsbeat.
“With herbal cannabis you can look at it you can smell it to decide whether it’s real cannabis or not. With these highly processed forms, that is completely out of the window.”
What’s the difference?
Both cannabis and synthetic cannabinoids – commonly referred to as Spice – are illegal to produce possess, distribute or sell in the UK. Some people can be legally prescribed cannabis by healthcare professionals for various medical conditions, however.
Possession can result in up to five years in prison or an unlimited fine (or both), supply and production can result in up to 14 years in prison and an unlimited fine (or both).
Police can give you an on-the-spot fine of £90 if you are caught with cannabis.
One is grown, the other is created in a lab – designed to latch on the same receptors in the brain as cannabis, but with a completely different chemical structure.
So even though some of the effects might seem familiar, the potential for different side effects is very different.
Synthetic cannabinoids can cause hallucination, extreme paranoia and in the highest doses even death.
“The concern is drug sellers are buying a regular supply of cannabis sweets and their supplier has gone out of stock,” Guy says.
“They find another supplier who says, ‘I’ve got these really good cannabis sweets, they’re really strong’. But it turns out this person is just trying to turn a profit by using these really cheap synthetic cannabinoids.”
He says everyone downstream faces a “huge additional risk”. Buyers think they’re purchasing cannabis which has “essentially a non-existent risk of overdose”.
In reality they’re buying synthetic cannabinoids, which Guys explains “carry a very very significant potential for death or serious harm by overdose”.
Spice in the UK
It’s not the first time these synthetic drugs have been in the news.
In 2018, a prisoner who died after being found “slumped” in his cell at a Welsh prison, was found to have taken Spice.
Two high school pupils in Northern Ireland were given medical treatment last year, after inadvertently consuming synthetic cannabis through an e-cigarette.
The latest available data from the Office for National Statistics shows between 2018-2020, 169 deaths were recorded where the cause of death related to “poisoning” from synthetic cannabinoids. That’s compared to 60 deaths in the three years before that.
“It’s not a new thing,” says Guy.
‘Huge additional risk’
But as countries around the world have legalised the recreational use of marijuana, the market has expanded and so too has the way people want to consume it.
Everything from vaporisers, oils and creams you can rub on your skin, to edible sugar sweets have become popular – particularly in the US and Canada, where it’s legal.
Canada’s marijuana market alone is worth around CAD$5bn (£3bn; $4bn) a year.
Lollipops containing THC, the chemical which makes users high, on sale in California where the drug has been legalised
Guy says he expects users to be getting synthetic gummy products the same way they get any marijuana product, “through social media, face to face or online”.
“Obtaining drugs doesn’t seem to be a problem for the users of our service nor anybody else. I would expect that synthetic products are filtering through the same supply networks,” he tells Newsbeat.
There’s also a warning for those determined to buy them and consume them.
“If you’re really intent on taking something that isn’t tested and have significant risks associated with it, start with a small amount. If you start with one whole dose you run the risk that whoever made it has been incompetent and has put say three whole doses in. If that’s a synthetic cannabinoid there’s a potential for serious harm.”
FRANK provides a confidential service to anyone wanting information, advice or support about any aspect of drugs.