While 19 year old Levy Thamba Pongi (a student hailing from the Republic of Congo) may not have died directly from the ingestion of too much cannabis, it’s what happened after the drugs kicked in that is causing Colorado to reassess labelling procedures on the packaging of treats containing the recreational narcotic. After being dissatisfied with the effects from part of a cookie made with marijuana, the Wyoming teen decided to ingest the whole thing, leading him to essentially ‘trip-out’ and jump off a fourth-story balcony. The incident took place March of last year, however new details are emerging as the state scrambles to stop others from following in the late exchange student’s footsteps.
Levy ate the cookie after travelling to Denver, Colorado with a few college friends. While in the marijuana dispensary, workers recommended that he only eat roughly one sixth of the edible – about 10 mg of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in weed that causes the high. They also said it would take around 30 minutes to feel any effects, so when that time-frame passed and Levy reportedly didn’t feel any different, he decided to eat the rest of the cookie – totalling 65 mg of THC, six times the recommended dose.
About two and a half hours after consuming the edible, he told his friends that “This is a sign from God that this has happened, that I can’t control myself. It’s not because of the weed.” before jumping from the balcony and dying from trauma, according to the police report, with the autopsy listing ‘marijuana intoxication’ as a primary contributing factor in the teen’s death.
What Levy didn’t seem to know was the huge difference in consuming marijuana compared to smoking it, as when it is ingested it takes longer for the THC to be absorbed into the bloodstream and thus takes longer for the user to feel the effects, resulting in a much longer lasting (and usually more potent) high.
“Because of the delayed effects of THC-infused edibles, multiple servings might be consumed in close succession before experiencing the ‘high’ from the initial serving, as reportedly occurred in this case,” says a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which reviewed Levy’s case and concluded that marijuana edibles should have clear labels and limited portion sizes according to dosage guidelines. They cited concern not only for those who use the products themselves but also those who may receive the edibles from others without knowledge on the suggested dosage – especially since children would be prone to eat the sugary snacks.
Colorado has since issued new packaging and label rules for the category of cannabis products in February earlier this year, making products require individual labels and accommodate no more than 10 mg of THC, or have very clear divisions based on 10 mg portions. It’s a much needed update, as the CDC estimates 45 percent of Colorado’s marijuana sales involve edible products, including food and drink.
So don’t get your pitchforks out just yet if you aren’t a supporter of the drug’s recent legalization, as it wasn’t an overdose in the conventional sense. That being said, as more stories like these emerge around legalized states – which include Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, and the District of Columbia – people are re-evaluating the common perception that weed is somehow completely safe with no possibilities for taking in too much.