Hash Oil Explosions Rise with Legal Pot

Another consequence of changing a public policy to benefit the 6- 7% of adults who use marijuana is the slew of hash oil explosions which have occurred this year.  Making BHO, butane hash oil is a relatively easy, but dangerous, process.

Did anyone figure ambulances, fire fighters and emergency medical care into the cost of legalizing marijuana?  Voters in Oregon, Alaska, Washington, DC, and two cities, Lewiston and South Portland, Maine, need to think of possible consequences before legalizing another dangerous drug.  States considering medical marijuana also need to factor in the legality of making BHO, and the cost for public services when the fires occur.

Downloadable Fact Sheet

Get the Parents Opposed to Pot Hash Oil Facts! Download our new flyer, which describes the hash oil explosions in states which have permissive marijuana laws: POPPOT-Hash Oil Statistics.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock called a meeting last week to pass an ordinance that would restrict unlicensed  amateurs using flammables to process marijuana.  There have been 8 blasts in the   city of Denver this year, and 31 in the state.  After an objection was voiced at the meeting on September 15, the discussion was tabled.

Congress made a huge mistake, when on May 30, the House of Representatives voted not to allow Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) funds to be used to investigate federal violations in states with medical marijuana.

Like passing child protection laws, or keeping the marijuana businesses out of communities, it seems impossible to pass any restrictions which might stop marijuana consumption, commerce or expansion in Colorado.  (Marijuana has caused three non-traffic deaths in Colorado this year: one incidence of child neglect in January and two deaths from potent edibles, in March and April.)

Firefighters putting out a hash oil explosion in Jefferson County, Colorado
Firefighters putting out a hash oil explosion in Jefferson County, Colorado.  Photo: CBS Denver

The marijuana industry told voters marijuana is “safer than alcohol,” but the social and public service costs must be staggering by now.  The fires and explosions are increasing, because extracting hash oil from marijuana has become more popular.  The promised tax revenues from marijuana are much lower than was projected, and black markets still thrive.

Seared Skin and Burn Centers

“Hash Oil’s Trail of Seared Skin and Annihilated Homes”  reports of one death in Hawaii early this year and one death in Oregon last year. “March Madness” was a term used to describe the numerous hash oil blasts that took place during one month this year.   Five explosions happened in Colorado during one week in April.

Butane hash oil must be made in an open or well-ventilated area.  If the butane sparks something else, explosions can occur.  What makes it dangerous is that butane is highly flammable, sensitive to heaters, pilot lights, electric cords, a cigarette or the slightest spark of a match.

Of the 31 hash oil explosions that had occurred in Colorado by early May this year,  21 involved injuries and 10 of those suffered from major burns requiring extensive treatment.  In the previous year, there were 11 such explosions in the state, with 11 people treated for burns.  According to an official of the state’s burn center, at University of Colorado’s burn unit, the first explosion occurred in 2012. Most victims are males in their 20s and 30s.

A hash oil explosion.  Photo: ABC7 News Denver
A hash oil explosion. Photo: ABC7 News Denver

A  request to search the records of Oregon’s only burn center over a 16- month period showed that 17 people were treated for butane hash oil burns, including two residents of southwest Washington.  A 12-year old girl sustained broken bones after jumping from the 2nd floor, to escape a Medford, Oregon, hash oil fire last November.

In California, during a 14- month period from 2013 to early 2014, 27 people were treated for hash oil burns in one Northern California burn unit, 17 in southern California centers.  In California, it’s legal for medical marijuana patients to use or buy the hash oil, but illegal for amateurs to make it.  We have written previously of the children endangered by theses blasts. 

Fortunately, no one has died in Colorado from BHO-explosions, though some people have sustained horrible burns.

As far as state law goes, making the hash oil in a home is perfectly legal in Colorado, as reported on ABC7 News.  Charges of arson or child endangerment can be filed, however, when there is property damage, others are put in danger, or children are nearby.

Homes, Apartments and Property Damage

hashoilexplosionSeattle
A hash oil explosion at a Bellevue apartment complex fire caused one death to a former mayor and $1.5 million in damages.  Photo above and below: US District Court of Western Washington

Federal District Attorneys in Washington, California and Oregon have been excessively slow in response to the explosions, despite the extensive damage to property, deaths and injuries to others.  The explosions began 2-3 years ago on the West Coast, but it is only in the last few months that the Department of Justice appears to have decided that action is necessary.

Last weekend the Los Angelos Times reported 20 butane hash oil explosions in San Diego County, alone, within the year. There was $1.2 million of damage to an apartment building in San Diego last January.  The explosions have occurred from New England to Florida, and from to British Columbia to Arizona.

In May, the Oregonian ran a series of online articles about BHO (butane hash oil), detailing the hows and whys of making it, and the explosions.  It has only become popular in the last 3 years.

The hash oil explosion in a Bellevue apartment complex resulted in severe injuries to those who had to jump
The fire at Bellevue apartment complex resulted in severe injuries to those who had to jump, and one woman who died. Three men have been charged for the incident of Nov. 5, 2013.

On July 22, 2014, the US attorney in western Washington filed charges against seven people, mainly for “endangering human life while manufacturing controlled substances.”  The individuals caused fires or explosions in Seattle, Puyallup, Kirkland and Bellevue.  The Bellevue fire caused a massive explosion to an apartment complex, $1.5 million in damages, and killed a former mayor of Bellevue.   During this occurrence, two women experienced multiple fractures, having jumped from second- and third-floor windows to escape flames.

One of those facing federal charges in Puyallup, Washington, was making the hash oil for a marijuana edibles. He’s the owner of an edibles’ company, “Capn Cosmics.”  Additionally, he’s  charged with endangering the life of a 14-month old child.

The District Attorney in Washington asserts that the actions are illegal, because they cause harm to others and to property, although in the past officials found issues of legality hazy in Colorado, Washington and Oregon.

tigard-car-fire
A California many has been indicted for starting the BHO blast in a Tigard, Oregon, parking lot on July 29. Photo: KoinTV

On July 29 in Tigard, Oregon, a parking lot explosion injured one and destroyed or damaged five motor vehicles.  A grand jury indicted a California man for knowingly and intentionally creating a substantial risk of harm to human life in connection materials exploded, and for manufacturing marijuana.  It’s thought to be the first time the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Oregon has filed charges in connection with a hash oil explosion.

State regulations in California and Colorado haven’t stopped the explosions.  California doesn’t allow medi-pot patients to produce BHO, while Oregon and Washington’s medical pot programs don’t regulate BHO.  Colorado and Washington require BHO to be tested for residual butane before being placed on dispensary shelves.

Why is Hash Oil Popular?

Marijuana users are looking for the quicker, faster high—even though they think marijuana is not addictive.  Yet, there are great psychological risks, too, and some users have had psychotic episodes from using this potent substance.

For sellers, it’s an easy way to make large profits.   However, making it at home is so much cheaper, and it’s gaining popularity.

There are plenty of YouTube videos and other online instructions for amateurs to follow.  Makers begin by putting cannabis leaves and flowers in an extraction tube, like a pipe.  They then put the colorless, odorless butane in that small area to extract the THC quickly, letting it fall through a small filter on bottom.  Spraying with butane is called blasting the marijuana, which pulls the THC right out of it.

Problems are most likely to occur indoors or when there is not good ventilation.

makingbutanehash
A butane hash “chef” packs a pipe with marijuana trimmings that will be used to make butane hash. (Photo: Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)

The solvent or butane must be flushed out.  It can be boiled off in a hot water bath, which is why some home producers use hot baths or double boilers. Many commercial enterprises have the butane pumped out with a vacuum vacuum chamber to lower butane’s boiling point, pulling butane from the oil.

The result is a hash oil which looks like honey.  It’s like the crack cocaine of marijuana.  The THC content can be  70 to 85 percent, while the average joint may be 20 to 25 percent THC.  After cooling, the oil hardens and is broken into bits.  Sometimes the explosions occur in the cooling process, as when the refrigerator door blew off in Manitou Springs.

Butane has oil, a highly potent distillation of marijuana, is so potent that a single hit can last more than a day.  (Photo: ABC News)
Butane has oil, distillation of marijuana, is so potent that a single hit can last more than a day. (Photo: ABC News)

There are many nicknames for butane hash oil: “Wax,” “Honey oil,” “earwax,” “dabs” “shatter” and more.   It could be smoked, vaped or infused into the edibles.   Vaping is a concern, since the vape pens are the e-cigarettes of marijuana.  It is  a way that teens may be using marijuana without detection.

In short, hash oil offers a quick and lasting high for users.   A single hit can last more than a day.   By making it, it costs a user about 50% less than it would by buying it from a licensed dispensary or maker.

TIEDC Speaks Out Against Marijuana in Washington

“Mass incapacitation of blacks instead of mass incarceration.”  Judge Arthur Burnett, National Executive Director of National African American Drug Policy Coalition, was describing how he views marijuana legalization, at a meeting this summer which pre-dated the formation of Two is Enough D.C.

Two Is Enough D.C.  (TIED.C.) officially registered September 23 as the No on 71 campaign — signaling the opposition to legalizing marijuana in Washington, DC.    TIED.C. announced its formation on Wednesday, September 17, with former Congressman Patrick Kennedy giving an introductory speech.  The group urges the votersTIE-DCLogo4-reworkWhite of Washington, DC,  not to approve Initiative 71 on November 4, 2014.

The grass-roots campaign is another example of David vs. Goliath.  Initiative 71 has received more than $200,000.  David Bronner, a Californian, jump-started the campaign to legalize marijuana in the District of Columbia.   After the campaign gathered more 57,000 signatures, DC Board of Elections approved the Initiative in August.  Though Initiative 71 concerns private possession and usage, the city council would be able to commercialize marijuana.  City council currently is considering a bill to tax and regulate marijuana.   However, in the states that have legalized it, the black market remains and taxes have been far below expectations.

“We have seen the negative impact of tobacco and alcohol on our youth, families and communities,” Will Jones III, founder of Tiedc,  said. Companies that produce these two legal drugs have disproportionately targeted and affected communities of color.  “With the costs in health care, education, accidents, lost productivity and law enforcement as a result of substance use, Washington, DC cannot afford a third legal drug. Thus, we declare that ‘Two is enough’ and urge our fellow citizens to do the same by voting NO on Initiative 71.

Judge Burnett spoke at the Press Conference, along with Will Jones, representing the millennial generation.  They were joined by other community representatives who gave forceful speeches:  Dorothy Armstead, retired schoolteacher;   Dr. William B. Lawson, Professor and Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at Howard University; Pastor Ronald L. Demery of Bible Way Church in Washington, DC., a local civil rights leader;  Kathy Henderson, Realtor, parent, and elected representative for ANC 5D05;  Ambrose Lane, Founder of Ward 7 Health Alliance Network and President and CEO of Washington East Development Alliance (WEDA) and founder of ;  and Andre Murphy, who is in the process of making a film, with Bernard Howard, who spoke of his struggle to overcome addiction.

Rep. Kennedy, Bernard Howard and Andre Murphy
Former Congressman Patrick Kennedy, Bernard Howard and Andre Murphy

The speakers agreed that legalizing marijuana will mean more youth access to it, more drug addiction and the problems that go with it.  Increased use at younger ages also means more school dropouts and fewer children who are able to complete schooling and get jobs.  Under the initiative, the city council could allow commercialization which would then open the door to dangerous edibles, known to trick children and others with appealing packages.

Health and Biology

“Even if you don’t smoke marijuana now, you will be smoking it.”   Kathy Henderson said at a community planning meeting opposed to legalization.

“Since decriminalization, marijuana smoke is everywhere.  People smoke on their porches and you can’t get away from it.”    Currently the maximum fine for smoking marijuana is $25 and police do not bother to ticket.  This de-facto legalization of marijuana in the nation’s capital means that it carries a fine less than the $75 charged for littering and less than the $50 for under-age tobacco smoking.

Ms. Henderson, who received her undergraduate training in Biology, understands the dangers of marijuana from a health and public safety perspective, as well as from the perspective of a parent.   Other speakers have seen it all.

Will,Kennedy,Dr.Lawson
Tiedc organizer Will Jones, Rep. Patrick Kennedy and Dr. William Lawson, Chair of Psychiatry at Howard University

Dr. Lawson, in addition to his position at Howard University, is President of the DC Chapter of Mental Health America, past President of the Washington Psychiatric Society, past President of the Black Psychiatrists of America.  He received the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill’s Exemplary Psychiatrist Award and the Multicultural Workplace Award from the Veterans Administration for the advancement of diversity and multicultural understanding.  Twice Dr. Lawson was named  one of America’s Leading Black Doctors by Black Enterprise Magazine.  He is an author of over 170 publications.

Speakers’ Vast Public Policy Expertise

Other speakers at the Press Conference are experts in public policy and community organizing.  Representative Patrick Kennedy, son of former Senator Ted Kennedy and nephew of President Kennedy, served 16 years in the U.S. House of Representatives.   He is known as the author and lead sponsor of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008.   The dramatic legislation provides millions of Americans who were previously denied care with access to mental health treatment.  He is a co-founder of Project SAM, which supports an alternative policy for marijuana, neither legalization or incarceration.  As a mental health advocate, Kennedy stands strongly against marijuana legalization.  He says it increases “permissiveness for a drug that directly contributes to mental illness.”

Judge Burnett, in addition to being National Executive Director of the National African-American Drug Policy Coalition, Inc., was senior judge for the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.  He was appointed the first African-American United States Magistrate in the United States, was a member of the Board of Directors of the National Association for Children of Alcoholics, was a Chair of the National Bar Association Juvenile Justice Task Force and a Chair of its Juvenile Justice Committee.    Judge Burnett has about 40 years of experience as a judge and recalls some of the worst cases of domestic violence and child abuse that arose from drug use and alcohol.

Ambrose Lane is also a policy specialist, and a community organizer.  Among his many community leadership positions, he has been Director of DC Circle of Hope Violence Prevention City-Wide Project and the Founder, Principal organizer of DC Youth Advisory Council (DCYAC). 

Pastor Demery organized a “no ticket” Gospel concert in June of this year, with hopes to increase public awareness of the dangers of policies that increase marijuana access and the resulting risk of “naive” initiation into life-long drug use and addiction.   Last September he hosted a Conference:  No Access, No Use.

Will Jones, Kathy Henderson, Ambrose Lane
Former Congressman Kennedy, Will Jones, Kathy Henderson, Ambrose Lane and distinguished Judge Arthur Burnett

Other Issues

The disparities in the criminal justice and larger issues of racism in the United States were brought up by some of the speakers.  “However, drug arrests are only one factor in the larger issues of racism and disparities in the criminal justice system.  It is wrong to think that legalizing marijuana would make a dent in these larger problems,” Will Jones concluded.   Attorney General Eric Holder announced a downward trend in the rate of incarceration in federal prisons, following the release of non-violent drug offenders.

Though some voters may think Initiative 71 only covers private possession, with an individuals allowed two ounces or to grow up to six plants.  The city council at any time could vote to allow commercial sales of marijuana.

A recent problem is BHO explosions. It would be difficult to stop and control the making of BHO, butane hash oil.   The fire departments,  hospital emergency rooms and ambulances of Colorado, California and Washington have become overburdened with a rash of butane hash oil explosions, and this activity would be totally legitimate if Initiative 71 passes.  Despite eight explosions in Denver and 31 in Colorado this year, the city of Denver has had difficulty passing laws to change the situation.

Violence, Anger, Explosions: Children in Danger

(Part two of Marijuana and Child Neglect/Abuse. Last week we published an article about neglect; this week we cover violence, anger and explosions.)   A 15-year old boy living in fear of his violent father was afraid to go home and confided in a friend’s family.  The friend’s mom told police, who went to investigate the child abuse. They found out more, accidentally discovering an illegal, indoor marijuana grow.  Yet marijuana activists tell us they are calm and non-violent.

Butane hash oil explosions are another way children surrounded by marijuana face grave danger.  In Medford, Oregon, a 12-year old girl suffered many broken bones when she had to jump from the 2nd floor of the apartment building to escape the flames.

After three children died in Colorado because of parental neglect while parents smoked pot followed by a string of hash oil explosions with children at home, it should have been easy to pass child protection laws in Colorado.  On April 27, 2014, an 8-month old baby had be rescued from the 2nd floor of a burning townhouse in Littleton, after a father and his girlfriend sparked a fire by burning hash oil.   The neighbor whose adjoining townhouse was damaged rescued their 4-year old.  Just 10 days earlier, on the 17th of April, a couple in Colorado Springs endangered their 3 children, the oldest a 7-year old, using fire to make dabs from hash oil.

Since the Alliance for Drug Endangered Children began in the 1990s, there are fewer meth lab explosions.  Instead, the promotion and legalization of marijuana has created one of its most dangerous by-products: hash oil explosions fueled by butane gas.   In short, it’s called BHO.

Hash Oil Explosions

As of early May, Colorado had experienced 31 hash oil explosions in 2014, 10 of them involving serious burns.  The  Colorado Alliance for Drug Endangered Children (CoDEC) has been taking steps protect children from the drug-using parents, but two child-protection bills failed to pass.

On April 1, 2014, state 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.   Unfortunately, an associate of the Drug Policy Alliance had written a letter to the Denver Post implying it was unfair to marijuana users.

The bills HB 177 and 178 were voted down at the beginning of May. The outcome was undermined by interests of the marijuana industry, marijuana users and politics.   When the city of Denver met September 16 to restrict unqualified individuals from making hash oil — the marijuana activists again objected.

After Failure to Pass Child Protection Bills

In mid-May, a Manitou Springs, Colorado, couple cooled the hash oil in the refrigerator.   The refrigerator door blew off and landed on the woman’s three-year old child.  Multiple charges of arson and child endangerment have been leveled against each of the parents in Colorado who put the lives of their children in danger.  They are indeed lucky that none of the children burned or died in the fires.

Making hash oil at home is perfectly legal in Colorado.   However, the state of Colorado should be blamed for putting the marijuana users’ freedom and the “good name” or reputation of marijuana ahead of the children.  The evidence is that the legalization of marijuana has put more children in harm’s way.

 Huge Problem in Other States, in West

Hash oil explosions are frequent in other states, too, particularly on the west coast.  On August 25, a man living in Santa Rosa, California, had an explosion and burned badly.  While he did not have children, the family next door with 5 children were put in the line of danger. Today, the LA Times reports of 20 hash oil explosions within the last year in San Diego County, California.  One of the 4 groups currently under investigation involved a child put in danger, and the offending party has been charged with child endangerment.

A recent hash oil explosion in San Diego
A recent hash oil explosion in San Diego

In May, the Oregonian reported that nine major hash oil blasts had occurred in Oregon since 2011, four of them in homes or hotel rooms where children, including a newborn, were present. In one case, a 12-year-old girl suffered multiple broken bones after leaping from the second floor of an apartment building rocked by a butane hash oil (BHO) explosion.

Last year a 10-day old and one-year old baby and two women suffered injuries from a hash oil explosion in Forest Grove, Oregon, the site of another extensive fire from making hash oil in January, 2014.    Two months ago, on July 22,  it was announced that the District Attorney in Seattle filed charges against seven who caused explosions in the state of Washington.

Anger Management

Marijuana users like to claim they don’t get mad and violent, like the cocaine addicts and some alcoholics routinely do.  If their marijuana usage leads to explosions, selfishness, abandonment, or narcissistic rage and anger, they fall into the same violent category as other substance abusers.

A case of violent child abuse erupted in Tampa, Florida in June. Christopher Finlayson, who babysat an 11-month old girl, tried to amuse her by tossing the child into the air.  He tripped and dropped the child face-first onto the floor. When the child continued to cry, Finlayson went into a moment of rage and he “lost it.” The baby was totally unresponsive when the mother returned home.  She took her to the hospital and authorities were called. The man admitted he had smoked a “blunt and a half” of marijuana the previous day and was unable to sleep the night before the incident.

Just a few days ago when police in Nevada went to investigate a case a suspected child abuse, they discovered a fetus in the freezer, with a gun and marijuana in the bassinet. This year authorities in Utah discovered that Megan Huntsman, heavy marijuana user, had buried 6 of her children over several years.

In July, four adults in south Modesto, California, pleaded no contest to severely beating a 7-week old girl. The child had several broken ribs, a lacerated liver and spleen and swelling on her brain. When authorities investigated the home 3 were used for growing marijuana for sale. They parents were charged with two counts of child cruelty, illegally growing with intent for sale, stealing electricity and damaging power lines.

According to a recent article “chronic [marijuana] users exhibit blunted emotional reaction to threat stimuli, which may also decrease the likelihood of aggressive behavior.”  This study is one of many articles  or studies using data while trying to promote marijuana usage.  The study didn’t show what happens when one partner does marijuana while the other does not, sometimes a problem in abusive marriages.   It also did not track child abuse.

From the website, Marijuana Makes You Violent
From the website, Marijuana Makes You Violent

Why is marijuana likely to make some people violent, if using can cause a “blunted emotional reaction to threat?”  The nature of a psychologically addictive substance is that a person needs it to feel ok and to feel normal.   Take it away and there can be panic which results in anger.  Leah Allen tells the story of how her cool, chronically high father abused her mother.  Furthermore, disagreeing with the marijuana bloggers gets them so riled and angry.

What About DEA mistakes?

The tragedies of children lost to parents’ marijuana usage, and other drug usage, are larger than the widely-publicized mistakes made by the Drug Enforcement Agency, DEA.  No teacher, parent, police agency, politician or worker of any sort is free from making mistakes.  This summer a story spread about a failed raid which resulted in a grenade hitting a 20-month old child.  It’s regretful that there was an injustice suffered by this child for that mistake.  However,  this baby and his parents will have their justice with law.   There will be no justice for the marijuana – endangered children, as long as the marijuana community holds all the cards.

It’s a tragedy that because “Drug Wars Don’t Work,” Americans have legitimized a very dangerous drug.  It’s a tragedy that the current anti-government trend spreading in American political circles also leads to more chaos and more abused children.

Based on the fire, anger, rage and explosions, we cannot continue this marijuana experiment if we are to have a saner, safer society.

Negligent Parents Let Three Children Die in Colorado

(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.)