Marijuana Overdoses Kill 37 in Colorado On First Day of Legalization? Nope, That’s a Hoax

January 2, 2014 Updated: January 4, 2014

A story about marijuana overdoses killing 37 people in Colorado on the first day of pot legalization is a hoax, but thousands are believing the fake news story.

The satire website The Daily Currant published the story on January 2. It has been liked on Facebook over 11,000 times.

The story purportedly cites a report in Rocky Mountain News that said 37 people died on January 1, the first day marijuana was legalized in Colorado.

Marijuana was legalized in the state on New Year’s Day, but no one died from overdosing. The Rocky Mountain News was an actual media outlet, but shut down several years ago.

Fake news stories are increasingly combining real and fake elements to confuse unsuspecting people.

It is impossible to overdose purely on marijuana, studies have found. “Lethal overdoses from Cannabis and cannabinoids do not occur,” according to a report from the National Cancer Institute. Cannabis is another name for marijuana, and also refers to hemp, the male version of pot.

The fake story quoted “Dr. Jack Shepard, chef of surgery at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Denver” as saying “It’s complete chaos here. I’ve put five college students in body bags since breakfast and more are arriving every minute.”

Shepard added:

“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?”

Fake news stories such as this one can typically be observed by the inane quotes they include from fictitious people. 


An employee trims away unneeded leaves from pot plants, harvesting the plant’s buds to be packaged and sold at Medicine Man marijuana dispensary. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)


Cheyenne Fox attaches radio frequency tracking tags, required by law, to maturing pot plants inside a grow house, at 3D Cannabis Center, in Denver. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

Critics do say that it’s people sometimes experience panic attacks or have psychotic reactions after taking marijuana, but these types of experiences rarely lead to death.

There are other elements of the story that point to it being a satire report, such as the story saying that Jesse Bruce Pinkman was one of the victims. A friend of Pinkman’s was quoted as saying “Jesse was trying to go legit,” switching from selling meth to running a legal marijuana dispensary. Jesse Bruce Pinkman is the name of a fictional character from the television series “Breaking Bad.” He and Walter White produce meth in the show.

Some Twitter users commented on the article as if it were real:

“After recreational marijuana became legal here yesterday, we’re already having to step over bodies,” said Nick Arnott.

“We knew the death toll would climb,” said “Hoppe.”

“So do we blame pot, or do we blame the users? Do you blame alcohol for alcohol related deaths including DUI, or…” said Bryan Tann.

“I have to reconsider my statement b4. #marijuana kills around 37 people in the 1st time legalization due to #overdoes,” said Riley Du.

 Correction: A previous version of this article misstated that Molson Coors is a fake company.

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber