The Herald Bulletin

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April 18, 2014

Colorado deaths stoke worries about pot edibles

(Continued)

DENVER —

An autopsy report listed marijuana intoxication as a significant contributing factor in the death of 19-year-old Levy Thamba Pongi.

Authorities said Pongi, who traveled from Wyoming to Denver with friends to try marijuana, ate six times more than the amount recommended by a seller. In the moments before his death, he spoke erratically and threw things around his hotel room.

Toxicologists later found that the cookie Pongi ate contained as much THC — marijuana's intoxicating chemical — as six high-quality joints.

Less is known about Richard Kirk, 47, who was charged in Denver with shooting his 44-year-old wife to death while she was on the phone with a 911 dispatcher. Police said his wife reported that her husband had consumed marijuana-laced candy, but no information has been released about potency.

The public defender's office has declined comment on the allegations against Kirk.

"Sadly, we're going to start to understand over time all of the damage and all of the problems associated with marijuana," said Thornton police Sgt. Jim Gerhardt, speaking in his capacity as a board member of the Colorado Drug Investigators Association. "It's going to dispel the myth that there's no downside, that there's no side effect, to this drug. It's sad that people are going to have to be convinced with the blood of Coloradans."

State lawmakers last year required edible pot to be sold in "serving sizes" of 10 milligrams of THC. Lawmakers also charged marijuana regulators with setting potency-testing guidelines to ensure consumers know how much pot they're eating. The guidelines are slated to be unveiled next month.

For now, the industry is trying to educate consumers about the strength of pot-infused foods and warning them to wait up to an hour to feel any effects before eating more. Still, complaints from visitors and first-time users have been rampant.

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