Weed Chronicles: Is it Possible to Overdose From Marijuana?

A new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and many of the several news articles it triggered, are blaming a “space cookie” for killing a teenager in Colorado – demonstrating a potential danger associated with recreational edible marijuana use. But is it fair to say that weed kills?

The new CDC report states that 19-year-old Levy Thamba, a native of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, died after consuming an entire marijuana cookie that contained six times the recommended servings of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in weed that causes the high.

In this week’s Morbidity and Mortality report, the incident was labeled as the first “linked to marijuana consumption without evidence of polysubstance use” since pot became legal in Colorado, back in 2012.

What happened?

According to police reports, the teenager initially ate just the recommended single portion of the cookie. Because he could still feel no effects after 30-60 minutes, he decided to eat the rest, which constituted approximately 6 servings. After a couple of hours, Thamba started tripping out, exhibiting “hostile behavior”. He had no other drugs in his system at the time he jumped from the balcony, and his death was ruled an accident.

Dose matters

In the marijuana dispensary, workers recommended that he only eat roughly one sixth of the cookie – the equivalent of about 10 mg of THC. It is undeniable that the THC level in his blood was high – 49 ng/mL. Some research suggests that high doses of the psychoactive ingredient “can produce serious anxiety attacks and psychoticlike symptoms,” but can we really call this a marijuana overdose?

Although it is true that dose matters and that Thamba, was “marijuana naive”, what killed him isn’t pot, but the fact that he jumped from a balcony after ingesting a whole lot of weed. His death was ruled out as an accident meaning that he wasn’t actually trying to kill himself.

Marijuana overdoses have never been reported

As of today, there is not a single documented case of marijuana overdose. Although titles such as “Marijuana Cookie Overdose” are definitely catchy, they are incorrect. Technically, a lethal dose would require ingesting the THC of at least dozens and probably hundreds of pounds of marijuana or more, according to scientific reports. Even the National Institute on Drug Abuse admits that it’s “not very likely” you could overdose on marijuana.

Cannabis is America’s most popular casual use drug with nearly half (49%) of the country, which has tried it, and walked away fine from the experience. Weed, however, is NOT for everyone and users can experience anxiety attacks or get in marijuana-related accidents.

The Marijuana Debate

Instead of reinforcing what’s become a commonplace argument against the folly of marijuana use, perhaps more time should be warranted exploring the ways in which the discussion can be progressed.

After the incident that led to the death of 19-year-old Levy Thamba, Colorado has issued new packaging label rules for products containing cannabis from February this year. The CDC advised all states where recreational marijuana is legal to integrate clearer guidelines labels. As it takes longer to feel the effects of eating marijuana compared with smoking, Stanford researchers warn that this can cause people to eat too much. Initiatives that make consumers and their families safer are definitely welcomed.

If the topic interests you, feature documentaries “The Culture High” and “The Union: The Business Behind Getting High”, try to unite people with a common-sense approach to solving the ongoing problems of the “drug war”.

What do you think of marijuana-related deaths? Share your views in the comments section below.


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