Thursday, April 24, 2014

Colorado: Update--Passing Laws Are the Easy Part, Keeping Folks Alive is Much More of a Challenge

According to Fox News, two recent deaths and increased emergency room visits in Colorado have highlighted concerns about the safety of legal marijuana edibles.

"One of the dangers that we've been seeing with adult recreational retail use is they'll take the recommended dose, wait, feel no effects and then continue to stack doses. Then before they know it they have a pretty large amount in their system and then they get potentially pretty severe effects," according to Dr. George Sam Wang of Children's Hospital Colorado.

Investigators report that Levy Thamba, 19, a college student from the Republic of Congo who had never tried marijuana before died from edibles.

Friends say he ate the recommended dose of one-sixth of a marijuana-infused cookie on March 11. When he felt no effects he ate the entire cookie: six times the recommended dose. He later became irrational and jumped off a hotel balcony to his death.

According to Colorado state representative Jonathan Singer, "some 40% of the marijuana industry involves edibles."

COMMENT: As I have said so often in the past, "passing laws are the easy part, keeping people alive is a little trickier." 

As a citizen, I fear that as more states rush to see dollar signs in their eyes, most of the nation will be impaired by substance abuse regardless of the causation.

It is clear that every life is precious, yet Coloradans in their rush to be "high," have seemingly ignored the fact that the job of law enforcement has become further skewed with it virtually impossible to precisely measure impairment from inhaled or edible marijuana usage.

Why couldn't Colorado legislators have waited for the medical profession to have substantively weighed-in on the downsides of marijuana use before the passed legislation?

Unfortunately, in the emotional rush  to become the first in the nation to legalize marijuana consumption, the medical community and legislators failed to thoroughly run trials as to just how dangerous marijuana edibles actually are.

Edibles range from marijuana-infused mints, to candies, baked goods and beverages. Their popularity seems to have taken everyone--lawmakers, health officials and the industry itself, by surprise.

Colorado law requires that all products be sold in child-proof packaging and labels reveal the amount of the psychoactive ingredient THC they contain.

Dr. Wang reports that in 2009, 2010 and 2011 combined, Children's Hospital had fourteen children come to their ER for marijuana intoxication. 

Last year alone, that number rose to eight cases and they have had eight more cases in just the first few months of this year. Six of those cases required admission to critical care.

Singer is co-sponsor of a bill that would require pot edibles to be instantly recognizable, even when out of the packaging.

On April 14, 2014, Kristine Kirk was on the phone with a 911 operator she had called to report her husband was "totally hallucinating." Police say Richard Kirk had purchased marijuana-infused candy earlier in the day; he was also taking prescription medication. Richard Kirk faces a first-degree murder charge and the case is still under investigation.

Singer, one of only two state legislators to publicly endorse legalizing marijuana, says education is critical but more needs to be done. "When you have edibles that are shaped like gummy bears or lollypops or lemon drops we need to make sure there is something clear on there that clearly identifies it as not for child consumption," he said.

For those who have already died from marijuana usage, Colorado's lawmakers seem to have blood already on their hands.