Pubdate: Thu, 06 Aug 2015
Source: Boulder Weekly (CO)
Copyright: 2015 Boulder Weekly
Author: Leland Rucker


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its report on 
a 19-yearold male student who leapt to his death from a Denver hotel 
window after ingesting a marijuana cookie in March 2014.

The report, "Notes from the Field: Death Following Ingestion of an 
Edible Marijuana Product - Colorado, March 2014," took 16 months to 
complete, but it seems more perfunctory than revelatory. And it 
leaves too many questions unanswered. (Read the full report at

The incident, not surprisingly, received immense press attention 
since it happened less than three months after the state began 
selling recreational cannabis. Despite the exposure, real information 
about what happened that night has been sketchy. I was really looking 
forward to a more complete explanation.

Its most important finding is that "this was the first reported death 
in Colorado linked to marijuana consumption without evidence of 
polysubstance use since the state approved recreational use of 
marijuana in 2012."

The police report indicated that the student was "marijuana naive" 
and had no history of drug or alcohol use or mental illness. A 
23-year-old friend bought the cookie, and the police report says "the 
sales clerk had instructed the buyer and decedent to divide each 
cookie into sixths, each piece containing approximately 10 mg of THC, 
the serving size, and to ingest one serving at a time." (Though it's 
suggested, the report doesn't explain whether the 19-year-old was 
actually in the store to receive this direction.)

Apparently, a half hour after consuming 10 milligrams of the cookie 
and feeling no effects, the decedent ate the rest, and soon after 
"reportedly exhibited erratic speech and hostile behavior" before his 
death two hours later.

Shouldn't at least part of the message here be that friends shouldn't 
be giving their underage friends marijuana? Or that people have to 
take some responsibility for their own actions?

That he "reportedly" spoke erratically and was aggressive doesn't 
offer much insight into his actual state of mind, and the researchers 
apparently didn't talk with anyone who was with the man during this 
period, including the friend who gave it to him. Wouldn't those 
people have been able to shed more light on what the young man was 
actually saying and doing? Were they concerned about his wellbeing?

Instead, the report relies on the police report and an autopsy 
performed 19 hours later. Tests for other drugs, including bath 
salts, proved negative. "The only confirmed findings were 
cannabinoids (7.2 ng/mL delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol [THC] and 49 
ng/mL delta-9 carboxy-THC, an inactive marijuana metabolite)." That's 
just slightly over the legal whole blood limit of delta-9 THC for 
driving a vehicle in Colorado.

The store that sold the item voluntarily turned over the other 67 
cookies it had to the Denver Police Department, which were tested and 
found to be with in required THC levels. Cannabis works differently 
with everyone, especially a first-time user, but 65 milligrams of THC 
is not an outrageous or unusual dosage.

The researchers note that the state has already reacted to the 
packaging and labeling of edibles, instituting changes already that 
include clear demarcation of 10 milligrams edible pieces, with more 
rules in place by 2016. They suggest, rightly, that other states 
should consider clear packaging of edible products.

But what I find more interesting than this being the "first" is that 
it's the "only" case. More than five million edible products were 
consumed by people in Colorado in the first year, and yet the 
researchers conclude that this one incident "illustrates a potential 
danger associated with recreational edible marijuana use." Perhaps, 
but nothing I've read indicates that higher THC levels correspond to 
psychosis, and the researchers didn't look into the man's history, so 
we just don't know.

Noting that "the police report did not indicate whether the sales 
clerk provided specific instructions for how long to wait between 
ingesting each serving," the report also suggests a "need for 
improved public health messaging to reduce the risk for 
overconsumption of THC."

I guess I can't argue with that. But what else could the state have 
done to reduce the risk? It was purchased legally. The clerk told the 
buyer to divide it and take it slowly, which is what the state 
emphasizes in its public education efforts. The THC level was on the 
label. A clerk telling them to wait a specific time before taking 
more wouldn't have changed a thing.

I still question whether there's more going on here than mere 
overconsumption. Blaming the substance just seems too easy.

You can hear Leland discuss his most recent column and Colorado 
cannabis issues each Thursday morning on KGNU.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom