CDC issues report on marijuana cookie death; Student Levy Thamba Pongi jumped from balcony

DENVER - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a report on the death of a college student in March 2014 who ate a marijuana-laced cookie.

"This case illustrates a potential danger associated with recreational edible marijuana use," the report says.

Levy Thamba Pongi, a native of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, was studying to be an engineer at Northwest College in Powell, Wyoming. Investigators say he and three friends drove to Denver over spring break.

According to the autopsy report, Thamba Pongi ate several pieces of a marijuana-laced cookie early March 11 and then began exhibiting hostile behavior.

His friends told investigators that Thamba Pongi began “pulling items off the walls,” and spoke erratically.

They said they tried to calm him down and thought they were successful, but he soon jumped out of bed, ran out to the hallway and jumped over the balcony of their hotel room falling four stories to the atrium floor below.

The teen died from massive injuries, including multiple skull fractures.

"Marijuana intoxication is a significant contributing factor" in the death, the autopsy report states.

While the CDC report does not name the victim, it says, "the decedent ate only a single piece of his cookie, as directed by the sales clerk. Approximately 30–60 minutes later, not feeling any effects, he consumed the remainder of the cookie. During the next 2 hours, he reportedly exhibited erratic speech and hostile behaviors. Approximately 3.5 hours after initial ingestion, and 2.5 hours after consuming the remainder of the cookie, he jumped off a fourth floor balcony and died from trauma."

Tests show Thamba Pongi's marijuana intoxication level was 7.2 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood. THC is the drug's active ingredient. Under a Colorado law that took effect in 2013, the threshold for a driving under the influence of marijuana violation is 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter.

The CDC says an estimated 45 percent of Colorado's marijuana sales involve edible marijuana, including THC-infused food, drink, and pills. 

The report says the marijuana store where the implicated cookies had been purchased voluntarily gave all 67 remaining cookies of the same brand to the Denver Police Department.

"Testing confirmed that the THC levels in the items were within required limits," the CDC report said. "Because of the delayed effects of THC-infused edibles, multiple servings might be consumed in close succession before experiencing the 'high' from the initial serving, as reportedly occurred in this case. Consuming a large dose of THC can result in a higher THC concentration, greater intoxication, and an increased risk for adverse psychological effects."

The report recommends "a need for improved public health messaging to reduce the risk for overconsumption of THC," however, it doesn't make any other recommendations.

Read the report on the CDC's website.

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