Just days after Colorado legalized the sale of recreational marijuana, an opportunistic satirist wrote an article reporting that smoking weed had triggered dozens of fatal overdoses on its first day of legalization. The January 2014 article went viral as readers either tried to make sense of how it happened, enjoyed the schadenfreude, or passed it along as a warning “just in case”:
Colorado is reconsidering its decision to legalize recreational pot following the deaths of dozens due to marijuana overdoses.
According to a report in the Rocky Mountain News, 37 people were killed across the state on Jan. 1, the first day the drug became legal for all adults to purchase. Several more are clinging onto life in local emergency rooms and are not expected to survive.
“It’s complete chaos here,” says Dr. Jack Shepard, chief of surgery at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Denver. “I’ve put five college students in body bags since breakfast and more are arriving every minute.”
“We are seeing cardiac arrests, hypospadias, acquired trimethylaminuria, and multiple organ failures. By next week the death toll could go as high as 200, maybe 300. Someone needs to step in and stop this madness. My god, why did we legalize marijuana? What were we thinking?”
Hypospadias is a congenital defect in which the urethra is on the underside of the penis instead of its tip; trimethylaminuria is better known as “fish odor syndrome” and is caused by the accumulation of a compound usually broken down by the body into odorless components. Neither has been associated with marijuana use, heavy or otherwise.
The story goes on to make its satirical bent extremely clear to people who read that far:
“We told everyone this would happen,” says Peter Swindon, President and CEO of local brewer MolsonCoors. “Marijuana is a deadly hardcore drug that causes addiction and destroys lives.
“When was the last time you heard of someone overdosing on beer? All these pro-marijuana groups should be ashamed of themselves. The victims’ blood is on their hands.”
One of the those victims was 29-year-old Jesse Bruce Pinkman, a former methamphetamine dealer from Albuquerque who had recently moved to Boulder to establish a legal marijuana dispensary.
Pinkman was partying with friends when he suffered several seizures and a massive heart attack which ultimately proved to be fatal. Toxicology reports revealed that marijuana was the only drug present in his system.
“This is just a terrible tragedy,” says his friend Peter, “Jesse was trying to go legit and now this happens? I guess drugs really are as dangerous as they say.”
But most importantly, this story first appeared on The Daily Currant, a once-lively satire site that died a quiet death in 2016. However, thanks to the vagaries and quirks of the internet, the Currant’s stories live on, circulating without attribution in perpetuity.