While Colorado has legalized recreational marijuana, you won’t find any shops in the town of Hugo. Despite this, evidence of THC – the main “ingredient” in marijuana – has reportedly been found in the local water supply.
Hugo is a small town with only 720 residents, located around 100 miles southeast of Denver. As local jurisdictions have their own laws, despite the legalization, residents in Hugo and Lincoln County are not permitted to open businesses selling recreational marijuana in the town.
Despite this, evidence has reportedly been found in the local water supply of tetrahydrocannabinol, more commonly known as THC, the main psychoactive chemical in cannabis that gives users their high.
— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) July 22, 2016
Hugo town officials made the announcement Thursday after field tests revealed presumptive positive results for THC.
As reported by CBS Denver, officer Michael Yowell of the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office spoke at a news conference Thursday. Yowell said testing is still ongoing to determine the level of concentration of THC in one of the five main wells that supply water to the small town of Hugo. Reportedly, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and the FBI are assisting in the investigation.
According to Yowell, it has not been confirmed that the potential water contamination was deliberate, but he did say signs of tampering have been found on one of the five wells.
In the news conference, Yowell said that while the contaminated well has been closed after finding the evidence of THC, preliminary tests tend to suggest that the entire water supply may have been affected. According to Yowell, more definitive laboratory tests are underway, as the field tests weren’t capable of showing how much THC there was in the water, just that the chemical was present.
Reportedly it was after Hugo Public Works found signs of tampering at the well that they notified the sheriff’s office of the potential contamination.
— Denver7 News (@DenverChannel) July 22, 2016
The Denver Post quotes Peter Perrone, owner of a marijuana testing facility in the Denver area, as expressing doubt there was THC in the water, saying the chemical isn’t water-soluble.
Others have aired similar thoughts on Twitter.
This sounds dubious considering that THC has very limited solubility in water. Plus no detail on the testing. https://t.co/PDo13HL9Ql
— Jonathan Page (@trichomics) July 22, 2016
Who ran the tests? THC isn’t soluble in water. I am highly skeptical. https://t.co/PlKlualain
— Ngaio Bealum (@ngaio420) July 21, 2016
— TЯEИT (@pr1ntf) July 21, 2016
Yowell responded to Perrone’s statement by saying investigators were aware of that, but had to follow up due to the field test results.
Micki Trost, Colorado emergency management department spokeswoman, said a reverse 911 call went out to all Hugo residents, warning them not to drink the water.
Following this, the sheriff’s office issued updates about the evidence of THC found, using social media to urge people not to drink the water, cook with it, or shower with it due to the potential contamination.
However, following Thursday’s news conference, the Colorado Department of Health did say it is safe for Hugo residents to shower or bathe, describing the likely contamination as “short-term exposure.”
However, as a precaution, the department did warn residents to consider using other sources of water for drinking and cooking until more information becomes available.
— FOX31 Denver KDVR (@KDVR) July 21, 2016
The department added that health effects from ingesting drinking water contaminated with THC depend on various factors. The effects vary depending on how much water a person drinks and for how long that person is drinking the contaminated water.
Reportedly the worse-case scenario with short-term ingestion of water contaminated with THC includes impaired coordination, possibly leading to increased anxiety, psychotic symptoms such as paranoia or hallucinations, and it could impair the ability to drive.
However, the department did add, “As this has been a short-term exposure, we do not expect any permanent, long-term health effects.”
In the meanwhile, ample supplies of bottled water are already on the way to Hugo as tests continue.