Government health experts warn in a new report that the risks of consuming marijuana-infused edibles like weed brownies and other snacks mustn’t be understated following the suicide last year of a man whose death has been blamed on pot.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Friday that there’s “a potential danger” that comes with consuming marijuana-infused edibles, evidenced by an incident last March in which a 19-year-old man jumped to his death from the fourth-floor balcony of a Denver hotel while high.
Levy Thamba ate an entire marijuana cookie that had been purchased from a licensed and legal pot shop in Colorado, despite the clerk having advised that it be split up and consumed in small portions.
Soon after he began to exhibit what witnesses described as erratic behavior, then, according to the Denver coroner’s report, “The decedent eventually reportedly jumped out of bed, went outside the hotel room and jumped over the balcony railing.”
Thamba’s death was officially attributed to “multiple injuries due to a fall from height,” but the coroner acknowledged at the time that marijuana intoxication was a contributing factor.
Now upon release of the CDC’s latest report more than a year later, the agency confirms that the case is the first reported death in Colorado that can be linked to marijuana consumption since it was approved for recreational use there starting in 2014.
“This case illustrates a potential danger associated with recreational edible marijuana use,” the CDC said, adding that food, drink and pills infused with THC — the high-inducing compound in marijuana — account for roughly 45 percent of licensed pot sales.
“It’s not new news to Coloradans,” Jessica Hancock-Allen, an epidemic intelligence officer with the CDC who worked on the report, told CBS News. “If you ingest a large quantity of edible marijuana in a short amount of time, you risk over-consumption, and in increased risk of mental health effects.”
An autopsy of Thamba taken more than 24 hours after his death had determined that his body contained 7.2 nanograms of active THC per milliliter of blood. In Colorado, individuals are considered too impaired to drive if their blood contains 5 nanograms per milliliter.
“This is not a lethal amount he ingested,” Dr. Robert Glatter, a New York City emergency physician, told HealthDay. “You could eat several of these cookies and be put into a euphoric state, and possibly have anxiety, but that, in and of itself, would not be lethal.”
“He likely may have had a predisposition or some underlying mental illness we didn’t know about, that became unmasked when he ate the cookie,” he said. “That’s probably the issue here.”
The CDC’s warning is included in the latest Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, published Friday.
Earlier this year an Oklahoma man fatally shot himself this past March while vacationing in Colorado after having consumed several pieces of legally purchased pot candy. In that case, the mother of the man, Luke Goodman, said she thought her son’s death was “completely a reaction to the drugs.”