The Common Web in Ideological Killings
Two cases of religious violence are dominating the news, and marijuana allegedly played a strong role in the lives of both attackers. Jeremy Christian’s rants on Muslim women in Portland, Oregon resulted in the stabbing death of two men who defended the women. The Daily Mail reports about Jeremy Joseph Christian:
“Christian’s Facebook site paints disturbing a picture of the suspect, and he describes himself by saying: ‘I’m an Ex-Con. I Like Comix, Cannabis and Metal-In Any Combination. If you are an Employer, F*** Off.’ ” The suspect has been in jail previously for a string of charges including robbery, kidnapping and unlawful use of a weapon, and he brags about being an ex-con on his Facebook page. Whenever there are erratic rants with psychotic overtones, we should suspect marijuana use.
Salman Abedi, the perpetrator of the Manchester bombing last week was also an early marijuana smoker and drinker. Friends remember him as a good footballer, a keen supporter of Manchester United and a user of cannabis. An article The Independent, questions how he turned from a cannabis-smoking dropout to a Isis bomber. The paper concludes that his path to radicalization echoes those of Islamist terrorists throughout Europe. However, his victims were disproportionately young, and overwhelmingly female–another fact that can’t be ignored.
British journalists have been publishing a good deal about the connection between heavy pot use and jihadist terrorism. It seems cannabis obsession turns up frequently with ideological or religious violence when the killers have no relationship with their victims.
Rising Pot Use, Rising Violence
Scholars from Michigan recently published a summary of incidences of the past few years linking violence and aggression with marijuana use. They reveal little-known facts, including information about how marijuana affected Tamerlan Tsarnaev and Osama bin Laden.
As pot use rises, we can expect a corresponding increase in violence. (In Chicago, known for a high murder rate, 58% of violent criminals tested + for recent marijuana use. Humboldt County, marijuana capital of California, has higher rates for suicide and homicide than most counties in the state. )
Frequent pot use eventually causes major brain changes that affect a chunk of marijuana users. (Studies show that even a small amount of pot use changes the brain.) Critical parts of the brain that influence emotion, happiness, empathy and conscience are involved, even if not entirely understood. Pot users are vulnerable to paranoia, unusual or rigid thought patterns, anxiety and/or depression.
When continued marijuana leads to ideological or religious violence, the usual pattern is that heavy marijuana comes first, the ideology follows and drug use continues. Dylann Roof killed 9 African-American at a church in South Carolina. Recent documents revealed that his parents struggled to get him to stop using marijuana at age 14. Other ideological killers and pot users included Planned Parenthood shooter Robert Dear, Eric Rudolph, an abortion clinic bomber, and Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber.
Is Marijuana Always a Factor?
It also is not necessary to blame marijuana for each and every person who becomes radicalized and fanatic. Orlando shooter Omar Mateen carried danger and rage that dated back years and would appear to be far more complex. In 3rd grade, instead of singing a school song “mariposa, mariposa,” he sang “marijuana, marijuana.”
It’s possible the radicalization of the San Bernardino terrorists, Tashfeen Malik and Syed Farook, did not involve marijuana use. Other drugs were found in their home, benzodiazapines and amphetamines, according to British journalist Peter Hitchens. However, Enrique Marquez, Syed Farook’s friend who bought the guns, posted on Facebook, November 5, 2015: ‘No one really knows me. I lead multiple lives and I’m wondering when its all going to collapse on M[e].’ He referred to being ‘Involved in terrorist plots, drugs, antisocial behavior, marriage, might go to prison for fraud etc.
We Can’t Ignore Correlation
Cutting out all marijuana use would not eliminate all murder and mass violence by any means. However, as a society, we cannot ignore when these correlations occur:
- a shooter’s psychosis and or mental illness is triggered by marijuana use – (James Holmes, Jared Loughner, Eddie Routh and possibly Robert Dear are clear examples)
- marijuana use numbs feelings so that shooters feel no empathy (Robert Durst, Dylann Roof) As marijuana manipulates the brain, it appears aid in the formation of psychopathology.
- Victims of PTSD turn to marijuana and it turns deadly for them and others. Cascade Mall shooter Arcan Cetin was an early marijuana user who suffered from PTSD. He killed five people at a Macy’s in Washington. Stephen Bourgoin who recently killed five teens in a wrong way crash also suffered from PTSD. If we offered better ways to identify and treat early PTSD, we’d have a less violent society.
A chorus of marijuana activists will say: “Correlation doesn’t equal causation.” That’s what their leaders say, too. For further study, please read Part 2, as well as these studies:
Miller, Norman S Miller and Thersilla Oberbarnscheidt. Marijuana Violence and Law. Journal of Addiction Research & Therapy, January 17, 2017
Fazel S, Långström N, Hjern A, Grann M, Lichtenstein P. Schizophrenia, substance abuse, and violent crime. JAMA. 2009 May 20;301(19):2016-23.
Harris AW, Large MM, Redoblado-Hodge A, Nielssen O, Anderson J, Brennan J. Clinical and cognitive associations with aggression in the first episode of psychosis. Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 2010 Jan;44(1):85-93..…… ↩