colorado thc water
Michael Reaves, The Denver Post

There’s something “dank” in the water of Hugo, Colorado. On Thursday afternoon this week, Lincoln County officials notified residents of the small town that there is THC in the town’s water supply.

An Accidental Discovery

colorado thc water well
Michael Reaves, The Denver Post

Despite Colorado’s state laws legalizing medicinal and recreational cannabis, both Lincoln County and Hugo have local regulations prohibiting the operation of dispensaries and cannabis businesses in the area.

The reported “contamination” was discovered after an unidentified company found inconsistencies in their drug testing to check employees for THC. According to Captain Michael Yowell of the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department, due to these concerns about inconsistent testing, “a vial of tap water was used to demonstrate what should have been an absolute negative result. However, when that tap water was tested, a positive indicator for THC was detected.”

The Hugo Public Works then began testing the local water system. County officials conducted ten field tests, with six showing a positive result. Apparently, the source of the contamination was isolated to one specific well. When authorities arrived at Well #1, they found signs of tampering and forced entry – although it’s unclear when this may have occurred. The well has since been secured, and agents from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and the FBI are involved in the ongoing investigation.  

Health Warnings

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has issued a statement warning Hugo’s residents to avoid drinking or cooking with the water for the next 48 hours. While the water is considered safe for bathing, laundry, and other domestic uses, officials are taking a precautionary stance by trucking in water for residents.

The statement also warns that “worst-case possible effects from short-term ingestion” may include “impaired coordination” that could affect one’s ability to drive, increased anxiety and heart rate, and “psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations, paranoia, or delusional beliefs.”

While long-term effects are not expected, screening stations are apparently being set up, and the department has provided a telephone number for concerned residents to call with their health-related queries.

At the time of writing, the concentration levels of the THC have not been established, and the local hospital has not seen any patients reporting symptoms.

Much Ado About Nothing?

colorado thc water

The Denver Post has quoted the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Mark Salley as saying that “as with marijuana edibles and other products,” the effects of the contaminated water “would likely vary based on the amount of water consumed and the concentration.”

“I wouldn’t be doing my job for my community if we just wrote this off,” Capt. Yowell has also stated.

But, as many cannabis enthusiasts will already know, THC is not water soluble. Cannabinoids are lipophyllic, which means that they are attracted to fat molecules. This is why cannabis products –edibles, soft drinks, tinctures, and so on – are made using oils, fats, or alcohol to extract the THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids. In MassRoots’ video tutorial on how to make cannabis tea, Uncle Buck even mentions that adding honey will give the cannabinoids something to bind with, as the hot water alone will not release or activate them.

Furthermore, as Lincoln County’s health officer – Dr. John Fox – pointed out: “It would take more product than any of us could afford to contaminate a city water supply to the extent that people would suffer any effects.” What’s more likely is that the toxicology tests are showing a “false positive” result, and will require more rigorous testing to resolve the issue.

What do you think MassRoots readers? Elaborate and expensive hoax, or shoddy drug testing? Leave a comment below to weigh in on this story.

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