CDC Report Warns of Over Consuming Edible Marijuana Products

On July 24, 2015, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report warning citizens about the dangers of over consuming edible marijuana products. The report cited an incident in March of 2014 where a man leapt from a fourth story balcony after ingesting a marijuana-infused cookie.

The man in question was 19-year-old Levy Thamba Pongi, a Congolese exchange student. According to the report, an unnamed friend of Pongi gave him a marijuana cookie after purchasing several from a recreational dispensary.

The cookies in question contained 65 mg of THC, or six servings. As recommended by the sales clerk, Pongi initially cut the cookie into six pieces and only ate one serving. Approximately 30-60 minutes after ingesting the first dose, Pongi reportedly felt no effects and consumed the remaining pieces.

Several hours after consuming the remaining pieces Pongi, unfamiliar with the effects of marijuana began to display erratic behavior. Despite his friend’s best efforts to calm him down, Pongi ultimately jumped off of a fourth story balcony and died from his injuries.

The coroner’s report listed marijuana as a contributing to Pongi’s death, making this the first marijuana related death reported since Colorado legalized the drug in 2012.

To outside observers Pongi’s reaction to the marijuana cookie may seem shocking, but CDC epidemic intelligence officer Jessica Hancock-Allen told CBS News that the effects were not that surprising.

“It’s not new news to Coloradans,” said Hancock-Allen. “If you ingest a large quantity of edible marijuana in a short amount of time, you risk over-consumption, and [an] increased risk of mental health effects.”

Although the CDC report has contended that the case “illustrates a potential danger associated with recreational edible marijuana use,” the agency has also explained that such incidences “can help guide efforts to prevent overconsumption in these jurisdictions.”

Since that tragic accident, Colorado has taken many strides in better educating the public about edible marijuana and more effectively regulating the edible marijuana market.

Earlier this year, Colorado passed regulations requiring edible marijuana products be individually wrapped or marked in increments of 10mg. Edible marijuana products must also come in child-safe packaging to prevent use from minors.

In terms of educating the public on marijuana consumption, Colorado has also launched the “Good to Know” campaign, which takes a lighter approach to marijuana education.

Despite these changes, there has still been at least one more death attributed to marijuana edibles, which further illustrates the difficulty in forming a regulatory framework. One can go to great lengths to ensure a well regulated system is in place, but the choices of the individual can always undermine that system.

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