Concern rising in Sudbury over distribution of mysterious subtance called THC Gold

·4 min read

The weekend news release of a suspicious drug product — THC Gold — allegedly being distributed for free in Sudbury has caught the attention of some people who seem to be well-informed of the local drug scene.

They're calling on drug users to get rid of the product.

The Community Drug Strategy has received anecdotal reports of a new substance circulating in Greater Sudbury. A news release was issued Friday warning city residents that it had anecdotal information that the product was suspicious. No one has revealed or identified who is distributing the product or what their motives might be.

"This situation serves as an important reminder to the community that street drugs may be cut or mixed with substances such as fentanyl or carfentanil, and that even a very small amount of these substances can cause an overdose," said the release from the Community Drug Strategy.

One Sudbury woman, Marie Annette Pollock, a member of the Sudbury Temporary Overdose Protection Society (STOPS), posted a public warning on Facebook stating that the THC Gold product contains no THC at all. THC, tetrahydrocannabinol, is one of the key natural compounds found in cannabis plants. It is a product well-known to cannabis users as one of the ingredients that produce the euphoric high that users consider desirable.

In her video posted on social media, Pollock posted a written warning: "People Beware! There are people downtown giving this out by the handful! It is not what they say it is." In the video Pollock holds up two small baggies alleged to be samples of THC gold referred to in the health unit warning. The baggies, about two inches by two inches, contain what appears to be flaky gold leaf material. Pollock then outlined in the video that she tested the gold-coloured material using a product called Rapid Response DOA Cup Test, which is defined online by the company as a multi-drug urine test kit.

Pollock's video does not explain precisely how the testing was done. But Pollock did a third test "live" in front of the camera to demonstrate. She opened up a brand new test kit, inserted the contents of the baggie with the flaky gold material, and added lukewarm water to the halfway point on the cup. After less than a minute, Pollock peeled away part of the label to show that a paper insert in the test cup recorded the levels of various substances.

"What I see coming up on this is positive for cocaine and methadone," said Pollock. "There is no THC in this whatsoever."

Public Health Sudbury and Districts is also aware of the product, but did not test it.

"It is not Public Health Sudbury & Districts’ role to test illicit substances; however, members of the community who are interested in getting this substance tested can connect with Greater Sudbury Police Service. As Executive co-chair of the Community Drug Strategy for the City of Greater Sudbury, Greater Sudbury Police Service is involved whenever we issue a drug warning to the community," said a statement from PHSD.

"We deemed it important to issue a drug warning to ensure that our residents can make an informed decision and take necessary precautions. This serves as a reminder to remain vigilant to the harms associated with substance use. Members of the community can sign-up to receive drug warnings when they are issued at phsd.ca/cds," the PHSD statement continued.

A well-known outreach worker with the Sudbury Action Centre for Youth (SACY), Joel Boivin (who is a registered nurse), said there is concern that some people might try the drug through an injection.

"Some people are driving around handing this out and suggesting to put it under the tongue,” Boivin in a text to a Sudbury.com reporter.

“It's been sent out for analysis, several of our tests are consistent with how gold leaf would act (tests the way one would expect folks to look), sounding more like LSD from how the people giving suggested taking it (which someone has handed LSD out free downtown in the past. Never met them, but meet a few grateful folks who encountered them).

"Haven't bumped into anyone who actually tried to take it this round, in the past they're usually told clearly what it is with the LSD thing above. At this point, our end, we don't know proof of any drug presence until more results come in.

“The gold leaf is likely just a medium, like paper for LSD. It's just very dangerous to inject as it won't really go into solution, it'd be a risk of embolism like injecting any piece of metal or rock. My thought is that a good many knew better not to take candy from strangers, especially the way attitudes have been towards homelessness. It would also be pretty obvious it's not great for injecting in trying to cook and dilute. But not everyone would know so well."

Len Gillis is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter at Sudbury.com. He covers health care in Northern Ontario.

Len Gillis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sudbury.com