Third Death in Colorado Linked to Edibles Sparks Debate

For the third time since recreational marijuana was legalized in Colorado in 2014 a death has been attributed to the consumption of edible products containing THC, furthering the debate about the safety of these products and the role of personal responsibility.

Luke Goodman, a 23-year-old man vacationing around Keystone, Colorado, committed suicide after consuming five times the recommended dosage of peach tart candies containing 10 milligrams of THC apiece. While a coroner’s report has yet to be filed, Goodman’s friends and family reported that he began acting strangely after ingesting the candies.

The first death in Colorado connected to the consumption of edibles occurred one year ago, when 48-year-old Richard Kirk is suspected of having shot and killed his wife while under the influence. On March 13, 2015, Kirk entered a plea of not guilty, and his attorneys have questioned whether being intoxicated may have impaired his judgment leading up to the fatal shooting.

Also in 2014, a college student from Wyoming named Levy Thamba Pongi leaped to his death after ingesting six times the recommended dosage of THC in the form of lemon poppy seed cookies purchased legally while visiting Colorado. The coroner’s report on Pongi’s death ruled marijuana intoxication as being a factor in his death.

Public comment and debate in all of these cases illuminates the strong feelings associated with recreational marijuana. The comments on The Washington Post’s story about the death of Luke Goodman immediately place the blame for his death on gun ownership, stress that guns are more dangerous than marijuana, and are generally very much in defense of marijuana. Commenters on The Denver Post’s story about Richard Kirk skew in the same vein.

While it is clear and obvious that guns are more dangerous than cannabis, it is also dangerous to get so caught up in the fight for legalization that you end up sanctifying a psychoactive, recreational drug. While Luke Goodman and Levy Thamba Pongi both ingested far more THC than advisable, despite warning labels, it might not be too much of a stretch to suggest that they felt safe doing this due to some proponents’ blind, chest-thumping support for cannabis as a perfectly safe and harmless substance.

Personal responsibility matters a great deal in all things, but that responsibility should extend to supporters of cannabis products, reigning in the urge to point fingers and place blame when they feel like the fight for more widespread legalization is threatened.  

Lawmakers in Colorado have instituted legislation dictating serving size and packaging of edibles, and have recently blocked attempts to relax some of these restrictions. In a recent article on High Times, Tim McDowell, owner of MarQaha, an edibles company in Colorado, suggested that this legislation is part of a scheme to “repeal pot laws. They’re not going to stop with edibles.” 

Legislative regulations are unavoidable in the edibles industry. Julie Dooley, founder of Julie’s Baked Goods, told High Times how constantly changing regulations have repeatedly cost her thousands of dollars and she stressed the importance of getting these regulations figured out so that the industry can “settle into a groove and have something the whole nation can look at.”

Dooley also discussed working with industry alliance groups to interpret laws and support fellow producers—a much more reasonable, noble, and likely to succeed tactic than angrily refusing to accept that cannabis could have any negative side effects.

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