Lawmaker, Sunriver chief speak on pot-candy illness

Burdick: Regulators must control potency

'Pot gummies' sicken Sunriver visitor

SUNRIVER, Ore. - A key lawmaker said Wednesday a "marijuana overdose" reported this week in Sunriver shows the need to go slowly on making pot-infused candies and cookies available to the public.

Sen. Ginny Burdick is co-chair of a legislative committee working on implementing the ballot measure approved last fall legalizing recreational marijuana.

She told The Associated Press she's not willing to allow the legal sale of marijuana edibles until regulators figure out how to control potency and keep them away from kids.

A woman visiting Sunriver from Washington state was left very ill after eating a few "marijuana gummies" that look like berries, police said Tuesday. Officers cited another Washington woman who provided her friend with the candy and they warned of the "potential public safety risk."

Police in the resort community south of Bend responded to the Sunriver Lodge "River Lodges" around 5:20 a.m. Monday on a reported marijuana overdose, said Sgt. Joe Patnode.

They found the 37-year-old woman slumped over on the bathroom floor, "extremely pale in color," lethargic and having trouble breathing, as well as "completely numb from the shoulders down," Patnode said in a news release Tuesday night that called the incident a "marijuana overdose." No names were released due to federal patient privacy (HIPAA) laws, the sergeant said.

Sunriver EMS medics arrived and treated the woman, who refused transport to the hospital, Patnode said.

Police determined the woman had eaten at least three "marijuana gummies," a candy that looks like raspberries and blackberries but contained an undetermined amount of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.

"We have to put some caution out there," Chief Marc Mills said Wednesday. "July (when recreational marijuana becomes legal in Oregon) is right around the corner. The THC content is considerably higher then what it was 30 years ago."

Sunriver officers issued a citation for possessing less than an ounce of marijuana to a 51-year-old woman who gave the candy to her friend, Patnode said. They confiscated the marijuana-laced candy that were purchased at a shop in Washington, he added.

Patnode said the women "were not familiar with the current marijuana laws" in Oregon. He said Police Chief Mills authorized the release of the information, and the sergeant added that with the July 1st legalization of recreational marijuana in Oregon approaching, "the appearance of this marijuana candy could be a potential public safety risk."

Patnode told NewsChannel 21 this was not a case where one woman slipped something looking like a small, tangy fruit unknowingly to her friend.

"She knew what they were," he said, although he added, "When somebody else buys it, you don't know the (THC) concentration level."

"We had no way of determining how much was in it," Patnode said. "She ate three, and she was having the kind of reaction we commonly see for people who overdose on heroin."

"They called (police) because they were really worried she was not doing well," the sergeant said. "We can't make people go to the hospital. Her friend monitored her and if she would have worsened, they would have ended up taking her to St. Charles (Medical Center) themselves."

"Can you imagine if a kid got hold of that -- something that could leave a 37-year-old woman catatonic like that?" the sergeant asked.

Chief Mills voiced similar concerns.

"There's going to be an education process, not with just law enforcement but with the public," Mills said. "And if you didn't know what they were, you could pick one up and eat it."

Mill said his officers are in the process of working with medics to establish protocols for responding to marijuana-related health emergencies. 

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