October 24, 2022 (Cover photo credit: DEA)

Some of the 15,000 fentanyl pills found by law enforcement (Connecticut’s U.S. Attorney’s Office)

In early September, agents from the United States Drug Enforcement Administration seized 15,000 fentanyl pills from a pair of drug traffickers in Connecticut.  The pills were packaged in Skittles wrappers and Nerds boxes.

A few weeks later, DEA agents seized another 15,000 brightly-colored fentanyl pills from a trafficker in New York City.  These pills were packed in Lego boxes.

In Washington D.C., fentanyl pills have been found that resemble children’s chewable vitamins.

The DEA explained in an October 13 press release that “rainbow fentanyl is the latest deceptive tactic the cartels are aggressively using to sell more drugs at any cost. Rainbow fentanyl is often available in pill form and in block form as powder. Any fentanyl, regardless of color, shape, or size, is dangerous and can be deadly.”

“Rainbow fentanyl—fentanyl pills and powder that come in a variety of bright colors, shapes, and sizes—is a deliberate effort by drug traffickers to drive addiction amongst kids and young adults,” said DEA Administrator Anne Milgram.  The pills are often marked “M-30”, and the blocks resemble sidewalk chalk.

Rainbow fentanyl in a plastic bag (Multnomah County Sheriff via DEA)

Rainbow fentanyl is not just an East-Coast problem, though.  Since August, it has been found in twenty-six states, including the Pacific Northwest.  In mid-August, officials in Portland, OR, seized 4 grams of rainbow fentanyl in brick form.  At the end of August, the Coeur d’Alene Police Department seized around 50 colorful fentanyl pills.

Chris Gibson, director of the Oregon-Idaho High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program, explained his concerns on an August episode of Fox & Friends First.  “Our biggest fear is, is that it will get in the hands of children who don’t understand what it is that they have and thinking that it’s sidewalk chalk or a piece of candy ingesting it and eventually or potentially overdosing on what is a very, very potent drug that is killing hundreds of thousands of people a year in this country,” he said.

Fentanyl is an extremely potent and lethal synthetic opioid.  Even as little as 2 milligrams (the equivalent of 10 or 15 grains of salt) can be deadly.  Most of the fentanyl in the United States is being brought across our porous southern border by either the Sinaloa or the Jalisco New Generation cartels.  It is often sold through social media platforms such as Snapchat and Instagram.

A spokesperson from Southeast Idaho Public Health told the Observer that rainbow fentanyl has not yet been seen in Bannock County.  (Local law enforcement agencies declined to comment.)  However, since this county is already a hotspot for fentanyl trafficking, it seems likely that rainbow fentanyl will eventually become part of the local drug scene.

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