A Wyoming college student who jumped to his death at a Denver hotel had eaten more of a marijuana cookie than was recommended by a seller, police records show — a finding that comes amid increased concern about the strength of popular pot edibles after Colorado became the first state to legalize recreational marijuana.
Levy Thamba Pongi, 19, consumed more than one cookie purchased by a friend even though a store clerk told the friend to cut each cookie into six pieces and to eat just one piece at a time, said the reports obtained Thursday.
Pongi began shaking, screaming and throwing things around a hotel room before he jumped over a fourth-floor railing into the hotel lobby March 11. An autopsy report listed marijuana intoxication as a “significant contributing factor” in the death.
Marijuana cookies and other edibles have become increasingly popular since Colorado allowed people 21 and over to buy recreational marijuana this year at regulated stores. Federal authorities don’t regulate the edibles because marijuana remains illegal under federal law.
After voters approved recreational pot, Colorado lawmakers tasked regulators with setting potency-testing guidelines to ensure consumers know how much pot they’re eating. Those guidelines are expected to be released next month.
Lawmakers also required edible pot to be sold in serving sizes of 10 milligrams of THC, marijuana’s intoxicating chemical.
The cannabis industry tries to educate consumers about the potency of marijuana-infused foods. But despite the warnings — including waiting for up to an hour to feel any effects — complaints by visitors and first-time users have been rampant.
Investigators believe Pongi, a native of the Republic of Congo, and three friends from Northwest College in Powell, Wyo., traveled to Colorado on spring break to try marijuana.
At their hotel, the group of four friends followed the seller’s instructions. But when Pongi felt nothing after about 30 minutes, he ate an entire cookie, police said.
Within an hour, he began speaking erratically, shaking, screaming and throwing things around the hotel room. At one point he appeared to talk to a lamp.
The police said that his friends tried to restrain him before he left the room and jumped to his death.
One of his friends told the investigators that it may have been his first time using the drug. Marijuana was the only drug that the toxicology tests found in his system. All three friends said they did not purchase or take any other drugs during their stay.
In a separate case, a Denver man accused of killing his wife while she was on the phone with a 911 dispatcher ate marijuana-infused candy and possibly took prescription pain medication before the attack, according to a search warrant affidavit released Thursday.
It wasn’t known if pot influenced the behavior of Richard Kirk, 47, who is accused of shooting Kristine Kirk, 44, on Monday. The affidavit says the woman told a dispatcher her husband had ingested marijuana candy and was hallucinating.