Negligent Parents Let Three Children Die in Colorado

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(Part one of two articles on Marijuana and Child Abuse/Neglect)

On November 27, 2012, three weeks after Coloradans voted to legalize marijuana, Heather Jensen, 24, kept her two-year old and four-year old sons in the car seats of an SUV, while she smoked marijuana and had sex in her boyfriend’s truck. She left the ignition on and turned the heater up so the boys wouldn’t freeze. When she returned 90 minutes later, the younger boy wasn’t breathing. The older boy died in the hospital a week later. Jensen had lost her husband, Eric, in a car accident six weeks earlier.   She has been sentenced to serve 10 years in prison.

Another Child Dies from Neglect

On January 13, 2014, two-year old Levi Welton died in a fire.  He and his four-year old brother had been left in a room alone, where the fire started.  Little Levi went into the closet to escape the flames. The parents, aged 27 and 33, were smoking pot in another room with friends.  They survived, along with the older son.  Julia and Christopher Welton have been charged with negligent child abuse causing death.   Logan County officials had investigated the parents previously for neglect.  Both boys had tested positive for THC, although the mother insisted she did not smoke pot around her sons.  A family friend who took custody of the surviving boy told a reporter that the county should have done more to take the children out of the home prior to the fire.

Two year old Levi Welton hid from the fire in a closet, while his parents smoked pot, in Sterling, CO.
Two-year old Levi Welton hid from the fire in a closet, while his parents smoked pot, in Sterling, CO. His four-year old brother survived.

Three children died in Colorado within 14 months, while the parents’ indulged in a marijuana.   The Colorado Alliance for Drug-Endangered Children (CoDEC, affiliated with national DEC) has been working for stronger child protection laws. On April 1, 2014, Senators Linda Newell and Andy Kerr introduced two Senate bills to strengthen protections for children whose parents’ drug usage, manufacture or cultivation put them in danger.

The bills didn’t pass.  Newell believes the bills were misconstrued by critics and that the outcome was undermined by interests of the pot industry and politics. Drug Policy Alliance had written a letter to the Denver Post suggesting it was unfair to marijuana users.

Marijuana and Child Neglect

“Don’t blame marijuana, blame the state.” some marijuana activists exclaim. Others say, “Bad parents will be bad parents, and marijuana has nothing to do with it.”

Parents Opposed to Pot blames the aggressive advocacy to legitimize marijuana for killing these three children. Those who praise cannabis refuse to see the irresponsible behaviors and outright neglect could have anything to do with marijuana. No one defends alcohol in the same way.  These parents loved their children.  With addiction, the object of addiction becomes more important than loved ones.  We need to stop minimizing these incidents, because they’re also happening in states without legalized marijuana.

On May 22, in Lakeland, Florida, an abandoned three-year old knocked on the door of his mother’s house for an hour, crying, before the neighbors discovered him. The mother and her boyfriend had been smoking pot and doing whip-its all morning and then went into the bedroom to nap.  Neither one of them had been supervising the boy who had gotten outside other times, even though they lived on a busy street. They told deputies that “marijuana should be legal anyways” and gave that as the reason they smoke pot all the time.

Tyler and William Jensen were happy-go-lucky boys before their death at ages 2 and 4. Negligence and impaired judgment from marijuana is to blame
Tyler and William Jensen were happy-go-lucky boys before their death at ages 2 and 4. Negligence and impaired judgment from marijuana is to blame. Photo original from Facebook.

At least one of the children who died in a hot car this summer was a victim of a marijuana. On July 24, Seth Jackson, the foster father, went to see his marijuana dealer in Wichita and left the 10-month girl in the sweltering heat while he got high. He came out two hours later, and she was dead. He and his partner had been foster parents previously, without known issues.

Why Marijuana and Parenting Don’t Mix

Each situation outlined above — including the ones which resulted in the three Colorado children who died — demonstrate how it’s typical for pot smokers to not realize the lapse of time. Marijuana smoking distorts the sense of time and space, and harms short-term memory.  Ideally, parents would never leave an infant or toddler for any period of time.  Sober parents, with normal functioning, would rush back to their children before the heat or cold could do harm.

It’s possible to sympathize with Heather Jensen for losing her husband, but her coping mechanisms are unacceptable.  The three parents living in Colorado – a state with medical marijuana since 2000 – may have been using marijuana as their crutch to escape the challenges and pains of life.  If a recreational user also starts using pot for anxiety, the anxiety is likely to become worse than it ever may have been had the user not started.  Lady Gaga explains the vicious cycle in her video.

Furthermore, those who begin using any addictive substance  before age 21 are more likely to become addicted. These people may have grown up to be decent parents had they not begun using marijuana. Though many people begin drugs because they come from tough or abusive situations, it’s not necessarily the case.  Where marijuana is legal or when people learn to use pot (or alcohol or prescription drugs) to medicate problems, they don’t learn healthy ways to get through the troubled times.

Another factor that could play into the impaired judgment of Seth Jackson, Heather Jensen, Julia Welton and Christopher Welton was the length of time they had been using marijuana. They ranged in age from 24 to 33. If they had begun smoking marijuana as teens, the part of the brain that deals with executive function could have become very impaired. The bad judgment, escapism and laziness could continue even when they aren’t smoking pot. Consistent pot smoking from teenage years into adulthood can prevent the normal process of growing into maturity.  Recent studies give evidence to these changes in the brain structure.

Last year a 24- year old mother in Centralia, WA, let her 22-month old son smoke from a bong, as friends laughed.
Last year a 24-year old mother in Centralia, WA, let her toddler son smoke from a bong, as friends laughed and encouraged it. A cell phone photo surfaced and she was arrested.

Pregnancy, Breast Feeding and Daycare

The use of marijuana is inappropriate because of the constant alertness needed for child care.  Plus, it messes with short-term memory. Users don’t always realize they’re impaired.

Tobacco smoking leads to health concerns and addiction, but it doesn’t impair the mind. Second hand smoke is bad for children, and many smoking parents make an effort not to do it with children around.  Many women quit when they become pregnant. Today there are moms who insist on smoking marijuana while pregnant, and even when they’re breast feeding.

The neighbor of a home daycare provider in Oregon reported she had seen the owner’s daughter outside smoking with a bong in front of the children.  Both the owner and her daughter were  medical marijuana cardholders.  The state investigated.  In August,  a state board told owners of four Oregon home-based day care centers will have to give up their medical marijuana cards or lose their licenses to care for children.

We know marijuana often brings about impaired judgment, forgetfulness and carelessness.   One 19-year old Arizona mother, who had smoked marijuana, drove off with her infant in a car seat, on the roof of the car.  Casey Anthony was a big party girl, but according to one of her friends, marijuana was her drug of choice. Without casting guilt on Amanda Knox, certainly heavy use of marijuana as a teen stunted her maturity and ability to function as a rational 19-year old in Italy.

It is estimated that 80% of all child abuse, neglect and endangerment is caused by by marijuana, alcohol or drugs. The problems of marijuana have specific relevance to judgment of time, memory and alertness.  They are not quite the same as with other substances.  Many tragedies can be avoided IF WE DON’T NORMALIZE MARIJUANA and make it legitimate for adults.

Marijuana Moms of Beverly Hills made big news last year when they declared that cannabis made them better moms, because it cut down on their anxiety. It’s a publicity stunt set up to promote the industry and bring Cheryl Shuman, the founder, fame.  If you have children and love them, or if you care for children, please don’t indulge and don’t spread the baloney that marijuana is safer than alcohol.  (Part two of this series is here.)

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29 thoughts on “Negligent Parents Let Three Children Die in Colorado”

  1. Congratulations! I am now the proud owner of a cancerous tumor, and it’s all thanks to you! You see I read this article a couple days ago, and started to feel pain immediately after, so the very next day I went to the doctor’s, and behold I had contracted stage 420 ass cancer. And it can only get worse! 🙂 So thank you whomever wrote this for providing me with such a wonderful gift. I hope I do the same for you.

    1. Here’s a comment that shows the level irrational thought and brain damage that may occur from a lot of pot use. They provide an answer that has nothing to do with
      the article that was written.

  2. Hey editor,

    Great article and fantastic read! Really cheered me up after a long day at work – nothing like getting a good laugh.

    You guys should probably use at least some evidence other than your fabricated claims. All these children died because their parents were negligent – not because they were high – but because they were poor parents who should have had their children stripped from them long ago.

    Use something like an academic journal, an actual scientific article, or ANY previously recorded data that shows marijuana use causes negligence and I would be extremely happy to return and read it. (good luck, though. it doesn’t exist)

    If you truly want to solve a real problem then focus on an existing one. Don’t fabricate one.

  3. Marijuana doesn’t cause bad parenting. But using can alter your state of mind and lower awareness of your surroundings. Thus, accidents happen. Maybe some people are affected differently as with alcohol. But just because some aren’t affected as badly, doesn’t mean it doesn’t do harm. A clear aware mind is better than one on any drug.

    1. >A clear aware mind is better than one on any drug.

      Spoken like somebody who has never had terrifying, intrusive thoughts.

  4. I know a lot of parents who smoke. You know what they do? They smoke and then go right back to tending to their kids like any responsible parent would do. They don’t just get high and forget their kid is in a hot car for two hours. These parents were probably already neglectful whether they were high or not. These cases probably have other influences involved in them (whip it’s, sex, etc) so to say it was weed was the cause for the whole thing is misleading and biased.

  5. I agree with Justin. Your article is crap. It’s just a bunch of assumptions that marijuana was the reason for these children’s deaths. How about these people were just bad parents?

    Your argument has no basis. What’s your proof that marijuana was the cause? It’s just your assumption. These parents were neglectful. It’s doesn’t matter what they were doing when they were neglecting their children. Like the one child who was locked outside. The parent was doing whip its AND smoking pot. So why is the pot a factor and the whip it’s not? Or maybe it was the sex the one parent was having in her boyfriends truck that caused her to lose track of time?

    How many other neglect cases did you have to go through to find the ones where marijuana use was documented? Where are the studies and comparisons to back up your statement that neglect and marijuana are correlated? There isn’t ANY in this article. You just have examples of people that happened to be smoking pot when their child died. That doesn’t mean weed had anything to do with it. These cases also just happened to leave their child unattended for long lengths of time, a decision they made when they were sober.

    I know a lot

    Write an article that has research and evidence backing up its claim. This post is just assumptions.

  6. …You are so misinformed its sickening. Saying Marijuana=Bad parent is just the worst kind of corellation..because there is absolutely nothing to back it up. Lets count how many good parents there are who smoke marijuana, then tally it against how many parents drink around their children. Lets see who is more physically abusive to their children while drinking alcohol, and who is more negligent when smoking marijuana. The drunks would be the worse parents EVERYTIME. I cant think of a single time ive ever been high and hit someone out of anger. Alcohol, thats another story. This is why I no longer drink. I suggest before you just out and call someone a bad parent for ingesting marijuana, you look at what you yourself are most likely consuming. Whether it be alcohol, zoloft to take the edge off, or the antipsychotics, based on the incoherent rambling read above about BLAH BLAH BLAH YOU SMOKE WEED YOU BAD PARENT. You judge people infront of your children, and tell them that some people are better than other people. Who’s doing more damage to their child now?

    1. We explained that these parents had begun using as teens, though they were adults. We are against marijuana promotion for teens and the way the marijuana industry tells everyone it is harmless.

      Did you read the article? NO WE ARE NOT JUDGING THESE PARENTS! We are judging marijuana for giving the parents bad judgment, addiction and not realizing the lapse of time. We don’t promote drinking with children either. Why in the world would you infer that from reading this article? The only reason there is more problems with alcoholic parents is that alcohol is a larger part of society. We do not want addiction equality. Neither alcoholism nor marijuana addiction is good for parenting. We realize that many people have cross addictions, so they give up one abuse and take up another. Better to seek rehab and get clean on all addictions.

      1. “If you have children and love them, or if you care for children, please don’t indulge and don’t spread the baloney that marijuana is safer than alcohol. ”

        Sounds like you’re promoting alcohol use over marijuana, to me. If it’s such a huge part of society, and you recognize that it’s a problem, do EVERY CHILD WHO HAS BEEN ABUSED BY AN ALCOHOLIC a little favor: focus on them. There are EXPONENTIALLY more alcohol abuse victims than there are people who are victims of “marijuana abuse.” Watching an organization like yours, which is completely misinformed about marijuana (which, you know, has been proven to physically/psychologically/medically/etc help people), trying to rally people against marijuana use is sickening, especially from the perspective of a victim of alcohol abuse (my mother loved beer more than she did us–she gave up custody of us within the last few years for it, by the way). All the time. I don’t even believe, for a moment, that you know what it’s like to be a victim of abuse. If you did, you would know that what you’re trying to do is more political than helpful to anyone who has been truly hurt.

        Bad parents will ALWAYS be bad parents. Idiots will be idiots. This is true regardless of which drug they use (as we know, there are /really/ bad parents who don’t need drugs or alcohol to be abusive). All of your arguments against marijuana are complete moot. I suggest that you take a break, sit down, and truly educate yourself on everything there is out there about marijuana–everything. The only good argument against something is when you’re COMPLETELY informed. If you can read every detail of research done on marijuana, and still believe that you have a solid point, it’s obvious that you’re being paid to write nonsense. At that point, you’re no different than people who go on gluten-free diets because it’s cool. You’re no different than an abuser, actually–bad judgement, misinformed, generally ignorant, pushing “the truth” (which is, obviously, a bunch of lies built to keep control), and my favorite: generally neurotic, borderline-like. Back and forth between statements, just to get your way.

        Your website reminds me of my alcoholic mother. Way to go!

        1. We are not promoting alcohol! Estimates of marijuana usage among adults are 5-7%, while it’s 66% for adult alcohol use (including very limited users) The only reason alcohol has caused more harm to families is because it is accepted, has always been except a mere 12 years of Prohibition. If the marijuana industry gets the Addiction Equality — as they seem to be aiming for it — you can expect the number of those who are addicted to marijuana and the number of marijuana users who are child abusers will go up. Despite your arguments, we put the blame on marijuana (and have some good explanation) for contributing to the negligence 3 parents in Colorado whose lack of watch caused the death of their children. At the same time, we believe certain parents whose anger is fueled by alcohol would be far less abusive as parents if they never had begun drinking.

      2. please dont state your opinions as facts. heather jensen did not leave her children unattended for 90 minutes. tyler and william were asleep in their car seats while heather and colten were right outside playing with a puppy, she checked on them 3 yes 3 times! when she did climb in coltens truck she got back out to turn the heat on so the boys wouldnt get cold. I was at the trial were you? i think co has a bigger problem its called fracking. kids dont overheat like that in a half hour, do your homework i think you’ll find more unexplained deaths than you care to know about

    1. It’s always amazing to realize the lack of empathy that marijuana users have. Stuck in their own minds, own version of reality and seemingly unable to connect. Not sure how anyone can laugh at the deaths of three children.

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