When a young man in Colorado ate a marijuana-laced cookie and then jumped to his death off a fourth-floor balcony last year, he became the first high-profile death related to marijuana intoxication since the state legalized recreational use of the drug - and the incident spawned a CDC investigation into the dangers of edible pot. The agency's findings were released late last week.
With an estimated 45 percent of Colorado's marijuana sales coming in the form of munchable pot, the report is timely and sheds light on a lingering question: Is the high from eating marijuana different than the one from smoking it?
And the answer is: kind of.
PHOTOS: Photo Needs Weed? Drug Plants Growing In Your Yard
Eating pot results in a more intense and longer lasting high, though it doesn't necessarily make you any higher.
"I don't know if I'd say it's more intoxicating," Mark A. Ware, director of clinical research at Alan Edwards Pain Management Unit, McGill University Health Centre, told The Daily Beast. "It's just different."
One of the main reasons for the difference? Edible marijuana passes through the liver before it enters the bloodstream - whereas smoked or vaporized marijuana goes straight to the lungs - and that process, dubbed the metabolic first-pass effect, can compound the psychoactive properties in the plant.
It also takes more time for the drug to weave its way through the liver, which means it takes longer to get high. People often ingest more of it while they sit around waiting to feel stoned.
PHOTOS: Presidential Drug Use: A History
"When you're smoking, you reach a certain level of highness ... and forget to keep smoking," forensic psychologist Max Wachtel told USA Today. "It's in our nature to accidentally overuse edibles."
It can also be challenging to know exactly how many psychoactive compounds are in one serving. Colorado has set 10 milligrams as the standard dose per serving, with 100 mg maximum per food item. But the potency of different strains can vary. And clinical pharmacologist Kari Franson, a professor at the University of Colorado, told Forbes that she is "still skeptical" about attempts to standardize the amount in products.
Edible Vigilance The young man who jumped off the balcony had purchased the pot cookie legally and been instructed by the salesperson to eat just one serving at a time. Which he did - until half an hour or more passed by and he didn't feel anything. So he consumed the rest of the cookie.
Berkeley Seeking Free Pot for Poor
Consuming marijuana and then leaping to one's death is not typical. Pot has been associated with psychotic disorders like schizophrenia and the college student may or may not have had underlying, previously undiagnosed psychological issues.
But the student's death does highlight the possibly more intense experience of ingesting marijuana vs. smoking it. And, as the CDC report concludes, it highlights the need to be aware that "consuming a large dose of THC can result in a higher THC concentration, greater intoxication, and an increased risk for adverse psychological effects."