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Pot brownies sickened L.A. preschool teachers, CDC reports

September 3, 2009 | 11:06 am

A group of preschool teachers in Los Angeles was sickened by marijuana this year after unknowingly eating pot brownies purchased from a street vendor by a fellow instructor, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said today.

The incident took place April 7 at an unidentified preschool and was investigated by Los Angeles police, according to the CDC report.

The preschool teacher who brought in the brownies for her colleagues told investigators that she purchased them two days earlier from a street vendor who claimed to be selling them as a church fundraiser. The unlabeled brownies cost $1.50 each and came individually in plastic wrap. The teacher did not consume any of them but said her adult son had eaten some before her bringing them to the school.

Five teachers ate one brownie each; a sixth teacher took a bite but promptly spit it out, “complaining of an unusual taste,” the CDC report said. The brownies were left in a break room.

About half an hour after one of the teachers ate the brownie, the CDC report said, the preschool director and the administrator observed one instructor becoming sleepy and dizzy and suffering shortness of breath, with tingling and numbness in her face, forehead and arms.

Suspicion immediately fell on the brownie.

The preschool director contacted the pastor of the church identified by the woman who bought the brownies as having the fundraiser. The pastor said no such fundraiser existed, and called the Los Angeles Police Department. Police suspected a case of food-borne contamination and notified the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health the following day, the CDC report said.

All six people who ate the brownies -- the five teachers and the son of the buyer -- told authorities that they had never used marijuana or any illegal drugs.

The brownie was the only food commonly consumed by all six people, who all reported similar symptoms of fatigue, having poor coordination, being unable to walk straight and easily stumbling.

Two of the teachers sought medical attention. One was a breastfeeding mother, who nursed her baby about an hour and a half after eating the first half of a brownie at 7:30 a.m.; the baby, however, was not sickened. The mother ate the rest of the brownie at 1 p.m.

The mother, feeling unwell by the evening, sought medical attention at 7 p.m. She received blood and urine tests; the urine test showed she was positive for a byproduct of marijuana consumption.

None of the teachers who ate the brownies left work early that day; they continued teaching class.

A leftover brownie was later tested by the LAPD's Scientific Investigation Division Laboratory, which found chemicals in the dessert that come from marijuana.

All six people who ate the brownies felt better within three to 10 hours. Police and county health officials were unable to apprehend the sidewalk vendor.

The teacher who purchased the brownies was not charged in connection with the incident.

-- Rong-Gong Lin II

Read the CDC’s report, "Inadvertent Ingestion of Marijuana --- Los Angeles, California, 2009."

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