Eating a pot cookie led to the death of a 19-year-old exchange student from Republic of Congo in Colorado March 11, the Denver Mmedical examiner said Wednesday, marking the first time since recreational marijuana was legalized in the state that eating pot was listed as a “contributing factor” is someone’s death.
Levi Thamba Pongi was a student at Northwest College in Powell, Wyoming. He was visiting Colorado with friends while on Spring Break in March. Investigators believe that the Congo native and his companions made the trip to Colorado specifically to sample the state’s legally available marijuana, including pot cookies.
But the trip ended with Levi Thamba plunging off a Holiday Inn balcony after experiencing a bad reaction to consuming a pot cookie, authorities say.
At age 19, Thamba is actually not able to purchase a pot cookie or any other form of legal marijuana in Colorado where, as with alcohol, the minimum age is 21. It is also illegal from a person over 21 to buy recreational pot and give it to an underage person.
Police said that one of the members of Thamba’s group was over 21 and therefore could buy pot, but assuming that person gave the pot cookie to the now-deceased 19-year-old, he may now face felony charges. Authorities had not decided yet.
The four friends were staying at a Holiday Inn in northeast Denver when Thamba ate the pot cookie that he legally was not supposed to be able to possess. Then something strange happened. According to what his friends told investigators, he started going crazy.
Thamba began pulling objects off the wall of the Holdiay Inn room and acting very aggressively. His speech became “erratic.” His friends tried to get control of him and thought they had succeeded in calming him down. But before they knew it, Thamba bolted out of bed and on to the balcony. And then he jumped over the edge.
Was it a bad pot cookie that caused the bizarre and ultimately fatal reaction? According to the medical examiner, one of Thamba’s companions also ate some of the cookie bit began feeling ill, so he stopped.
Thamba’s blood tested positive for 7.2 nanograms of HC, the active ingredient in pot, per milliliter. The legal limit for driving in Colorado is five nanograms. Thamba tested negative for alcohol and for a list of 250 other drugs and substances.
“We have no history of any other issues until he eats a marijuana cookie and becomes erratic and this happens,” said Michelle Weiss-Samaras of the medical examiner’s office. “It’s the one thing we have that’s significant.”
Before coming to Colorado and eating the ill-fated pot cookie, Thamba had studied for just a few months at the Wyoming college of about 2,000 students, not far from Yellowstone National Park.