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Student death is first linked to legal marijuana in Colorado

Published April 4, 2014 9:50 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

It appears that the first death linked to legal marijuana in Colorado happened last month at a Holiday Inn.

Levy Thamba died March 11 after falling from the balcony at the hotel. In a new report on his death, the Denver medical examiner's office cites "marijuana intoxication" following the consumption of cookies that contained marijuana.

"Marijuana intoxication is a significant contributing factor," the autopsy report states.

This is the first death related to marijuana intoxication in the Denver area this year, said Michelle Weiss-Samaras, spokeswoman for the Denver medical examiner's office, and is believed to be the first in the state this year.

The cause of death was identified as "multiple injuries due to a fall," according to the report, a copy of which The Washington Post obtained from the medical examiner's office.

Thamba, 19, also known as Levy Thamba Pong, was in Denver for spring break, Weiss-Samaras said. One of his friends was 21 and therefore was able to purchase the marijuana cookies legally. Thamba, who was from Congo, was a student at Northwest College in Powell, Wyo. The school said he started studying engineering in January.

After consuming the cookies, Thamba began exhibiting "hostile behavior . . . and spoke erratically," the report said. Thamba's friends succeeded in calming him down briefly, but then he apparently got out of bed, went to the balcony "and jumped over the balcony railing," the report states. He was declared dead at the scene.

Thamba had 7.2 nanograms of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, in his system at the time of his death, according to the report. In Colorado, which legalized marijuana in 2012 and began selling the drug for recreational use on Jan. 1, five nanograms of THC is the legal limit for drivers. There was no evidence of any other drug in his system at the time of his death, the report says.