The New York Times has just hit the Colorado marijuana scene with a one-two punch.
First was a weekend piece about the "downside of a legal high" that NORML executive director Allen St. Pierre specifically cited as dubious in a recent Westword interview. And now, columnist Maureen Dowd is sharing her negative experiences with a pot edible in Colorado -- and her joking (maybe) suggestion that such items be stamped with a "stoned skull and bones."
The first article, penned by Jack Healy, focuses a great deal of attention on two deaths associated with marijuana edibles: Wyoming student Levy Thamba's fatal fall from a hotel balcony and the murder of Kris Kirk by her husband, Richard, who'd reportedly consumed a pot edible some time before pulling the trigger.
Prominently featured in the Times' coverage: a photo of Kirk's coffin.
NORML's St. Pierre has some criticisms of the Colorado marijuana system, too, as he acknowledged in a conversation on Monday, when the organization opened a new satellite office in Denver. But for the most part, he told us, "it seems to be working well regardless of what I read in the New York Times."
Dowd's offering is tonally different from the earlier report. It features her witty/zippy prose style with a headline to match: "Don't Harsh Our Mellow, Dude." But the message that pot edibles are much more potentially dangerous than advertised is much the same.
While in Denver covering the launch of recreational pot sales in January, Dowd notes that she "nibbled the end" of an infused candy bar, and when nothing happened, "nibbled some more." For an hour, she felt nothing. But then, something happened. She describes it like so:
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I felt a scary shudder go through my body and brain. I barely made it from the desk to the bed, where I lay curled up in a hallucinatory state for the next eight hours. I was thirsty but couldn't move to get water. Or even turn off the lights. I was panting and paranoid, sure that when the room-service waiter knocked and I didn't answer, he'd call the police and have me arrested for being unable to handle my candy.
I strained to remember where I was or even what I was wearing, touching my green corduroy jeans and staring at the exposed-brick wall. As my paranoia deepened, I became convinced that I had died and no one was telling me.
According to Dowd, the effects of the candy took all night to wear off. The next day, she was told novices like her should cut a bar like the one she sampled into sixteen separate pieces, "but that recommendation hadn't been on the label."
This observation leads into mentions of Thamba and Kirk, as well as labeling legislation "mandating that there be a stamp on edibles, possibly a marijuana leaf. (Or maybe a stoned skull and bones?)."
She also points out that industry reps are against packaging individual serving sizes separately and quotes Bob Eschino, owner of the edibles firm Incredibles, as dismissing other suggestions for keeping kids from accidentally swallowing too much pot candy.
"Somebody suggested we just make everything look like a gray square so it doesn't look appealing," Eschino told Dowd, adding, "Why should the whole industry suffer just because less than 5 percent of people are having problems with the correct dosing?"
Her response: "Does he sound a little paranoid?"
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If so, that could be due to a barrage of attacks from marijuana-legalization critics in recent months, including Project SAM, which former Representative Patrick Kennedy launched in Colorado circa January 2013. Surprisingly, the group's website has not posted Dowd's column at this writing -- but the "downside" offering is already front-and-center -- an indication that the Times' recent coverage will be mentioned frequently by those who see pot edibles as a threat to the welfare of adults and children alike.
Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.
More from our Marijuana archive circa June 2: "Marijuana: NORML's Allen St. Pierre on organization's new Colorado office."