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Gazette Premium Content EDITORIAL: Stoned toddlers, pot mayhem are Colorado's wake-up calls

The Gazette editorial Published: April 22, 2014

As Colorado's free-for-all marijuana experiment becomes increasingly embarrassing, the state's House of Representatives voted unanimously Monday on two bills that may give some protection to children and adults who are consuming massive levels of marijuana by mistake.

Parents have forever caught children with their hands in cookie jars, or stealing candy from dresser drawers and creative hiding places. Kids seem to possess a genetic predisposition for finding forbidden sweets. Until Colorado legalized dope, the biggest concern was a sugar high.

Today, emergency rooms are treating children - even toddlers - showing up stoned because they've found candy that's laced with marijuana. All varieties of pot-induced snacks - including soft drinks that look like soda - are for sale at recreational pot stores. Few parents adequately secure these snacks. Furthermore, children often visit homes of friends and relatives who haven't locked up the edible ganja.

The stoned-children dilemma has led to national headlines such as this, from USA Today: "Colo. kids getting into parents' pot-laced goodies." What a stupid-looking image for a state that was long considered enlightened.

Even adults are getting into trouble with pot snacks. Levels of THC, the active drug in marijuana, vary greatly by treat. Some standard-sized brownies are designed as four servings or more. When ill-informed users eat the entire snack, they can end up intoxicated beyond anything desired or anticipated. Some hallucinate and lose sense of what's real.

Nineteen-year-old Levy Thamba ate an entire marijuana cookie, intended as several servings, on March 11. After it kicked in, he fell to his death from a Denver hotel balcony. The autopsy listed "marijuana intoxication" as a factor contributing to his death.

A Denver man suspected of killing his wife last week had spent $32.70 on Karma Kandy Orange Ginger - pot-induced candy - and one pre-rolled joint. Before Kristine Kirk died, she called 911 to report that her husband, Richard Kirk, was hallucinating after he had "taken some marijuana."

On the 911 recording, Kristine Kirk tells the operator her husband was talking about the end of the world and asking her to shoot him. Toward the end of the call, the woman sounded panicked and said her husband was taking a firearm from a safe. The dispatcher heard a gunshot seconds later, and the call went silent. The woman died from a gunshot to her head and police say Richard Kirk admitted in the patrol car to shooting her.

To be fair, alcohol also causes people to do stupid things that kill and marijuana rarely results in violence. But alcohol is more understood by society than drug-laced food. Alcohol doesn't appear to a child as well-known candy. We are seeing significant problems resulting from easy access to pot.

One of the bills passed Monday directs the Department of Revenue to determine how much concentrated THC - such as the hash oil used in many edibles - equals an ounce of leafy pot. One ounce is the legal limit for marijuana leaves and buds.

Another bill passed Monday would ban edibles that mimic other foods and candies, which legislators hope will reduce mishaps with kids.

Easter Sunday's public pot extravaganza in Denver, and recent deaths linked to marijuana, are confirming some of our worst reservations about recreational pot. Common-sense regulations from the Legislature may be a good start. But Coloradans need to take a hard, sober look at what we've done by passing Amendment 64.

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