It isn’t often that the Business Journal reports on fatalities. But when a contributing factor for an apparent suicide and a marital homicide is marijuana intoxication, it’s simple to find relevance.
It has been nearly five months since Amendment 64 went live in the state, allowing cities like Denver, Boulder and Pueblo to offer both residents and tourists the chance to legally purchase and smoke some of the world’s most righteous weed. In that time, the Denver metropolitan area saw decreased crime rates and the rest of the state saw little difference aside from a few extra tax dollars. In reality, the legalization of recreational marijuana was anticlimactic — until now.
The state has been a target of much scrutiny because of the events, which some pose are indicative of a flawed experiment. But considering that thousands of customers have purchased plant products with little to report, it seems rash to form a snap judgment in the wake of such sensational events.
But then again, publicity was not a friend of the state even before the deaths of Levy Thamba Pongi and Kristine Kirk.
Pongi, a 19-year-old Wyoming college student originally from the Republic of Congo, jumped to his death from the balcony of a Denver hotel March 11 after eating marijuana edibles. More recently, on April 14, Denver-resident Richard Kirk allegedly shot and killed his wife Kristine after eating marijuana-infused candy.
Although lumped together in news stories and commentary nationwide, the two cases shouldn’t be lashed together in condemnation of the new law.
According to police reports, Pongi, who was two years shy of the legal buying age, had traveled to Denver with college mates to try marijuana for the first time.
Although the vendor warned the purchaser not to exceed the 10-milligram serving size, which amounted to roughly one-sixth of the THC-laced cookie, Pongi, after 30 minutes of feeling nothing, ate the entire baked good. Within an hour, he became irate, ran out of the room and flung himself over the railing and into the lobby four stories below.
If anything, the lesson here is that our society must be more proactive in educating young adults and potential pot users of the psychoactive effects of THC. We need to be honest about the fact that yes, there is such a thing as getting “too high,” especially for a first-timer.
“The thing to realize is the THC that is present in edibles is a drug like any drug, and there’s a spectrum of ways in which people respond,” Michael Kosnett, a medical toxicologist at UC School of Medicine, told The Associated Press.
It’s not out of the question that a young man unable to handle the way he feels might behave irrationally. What is confusing is how he found a way to leave the couch.
The THC concentration in Pongi’s blood was 7.2 nanograms per milliliter at the time of his autopsy. The legal THC limit for driving is 5 nanograms.
State guidelines for testing these products are not expected until next month, although per-serving potency does not seem to have played a role in Pongi’s death.
Police tested the shop’s remaining cookies and found them to contain 65 mg of THC, equal to 10 mg per serving, which is within the state’s guidelines, according to Associated Press reports.
While the results of Kirk’s blood toxicity screening have not been publicly released, police have said he was perhaps abusing other substances — possibly prescription pain medication and alcohol — which have a track record for inciting irrational behavior sans mary jane.
These events are as sensational as it gets, and to those who haven’t tried toking, could seem indicative of something sinister. But read more than the headlines, folks: Logic would contend that coincidence plays a part in at least one of these tragic cases.
After all, doing something when you’re high doesn’t mean weed forced the hand.
While legislation to ensure consumer safety is important, at what point do you let citizens look out for their own safety? We’ve seen similar tragedies occur as a result of alcoholism, prescription drug abuse, diabetes and nearly every other avenue to be traversed.
Many will agree that compared to alcohol and cigarettes, weed is like a sugary soft drink (which can also kill you — ask Michael Bloomberg).
Those who desire marijuana regulation that is consistent with that of other questionable substances will just have to wait until it is made federally legal and falls under the jurisdiction of the Food and Drug Administration.
So legalize it — for the children.