Looking at Colorado Marijuana-Linked Death, CDC Advises States on Risks From Edibles

Earlier this year, new rules for packaging and labeling went into effect in the Centennial State.

By Bill Lucia, Government Executive’s Route Fifty

Highlighting the case of a young man in Denver who jumped to his death from a hotel balcony last year after eating a cookie that contained marijuana, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a report on Friday that warns of potential risks posed by edible cannabis products.

New packaging and labeling requirements for edible marijuana goods went into effect on Feb. 1 in Colorado. The rules were designed to help curb overconsumption, and to prevent instances of accidental ingestion by children. Before reaching pot shops, batches of edibles are also tested at state-certified labs to check that potency levels do not exceed an approved threshold.

The CDC report says that other states that legalize recreational marijuana could take similar steps to cut down on the chances of people experiencing health problems from edibles. It also says that the Colorado incident suggests the need for more public education efforts.

According to a police report cited by the authors of the CDC article, Levy Thamba, 19, began to act erratic and hostile after eating an entire marijuana cookie last March. Thamba had initially eaten only a piece of the edible, but consumed the rest after he didn’t feel any effects.

It was about three hours after he finished the cookie when the young man jumped from the fourth floor of a Holiday Inn and died of trauma.

The legal age to buy marijuana in Colorado is 21. The CDC report said that the deceased man’s 23-year-old friend purchased the cookie. According to the police report, a store clerk recommended breaking it into sixths, and consuming each piece as a single serving.  

Recreational marijuana sales began in January 2014 in Colorado. The Thamba case was the first time a death was linked to the drug, and no other intoxicating substances were involved, since the state approved recreational pot use in 2012, according to the CDC report.

“This case illustrates a potential danger associated with recreational edible marijuana use,” the report says. It goes on to point out that the effects of ingested marijuana can last longer than when it is smoked, and can also be highly variable.


Bill Lucia is a Reporter for Government Executive’s Route Fifty.