Police say they found “fresh burnt marijuana as well as a haze of smoke in the apartment,” and blood in multiple areas of the apartment. Ness started his attack inside and then continued outside in a courtyard. A neighbor shot the father in his leg to stop the killing.
According to the report, of the deaths caused by parent or caregiver substance abuse, 56 used marijuana; 23 used alcohol; 16 involved cocaine; 14 were linked to methamphetamine, 2 involved opiates and 1 was connected to heroin. Many abusers were co-abusing substances, such as combining marijuana and cocaine.
Those who say that marijuana makes people calm misunderstand how cannabis works on their brain. People who advocate for “responsible” use of marijuana need to cut out the delusion and misrepresentation. Popular magazines such as Oprah, Allure and Cosmopolitan present marijuana use as glamorous or at the cutting edge of our culture. A California company MedMen, aka The Mad Men of Marijuana, aggressively tries to rebrand the stoner image.
In Atlantic Magazine last week, Annie Lowrey wrote an article exposing the truth about marijuana addiction. While the author tells the truth about addiction, she opines that marijuana is relatively benign compared to alcohol and tobacco. She may be basing her belief on old information, when 3 or 4% of the population used weed, vs. 65% using alcohol. Marijuana is far more toxic to the brain than tobacco.
Meanwhile, our country focuses on opiate addiction, instead of poly-drug abuse.
What Does it Take to Admit the Failures of Legalizing Pot?
This past week a butane explosion rocked a North Portland neighborhood killing two men, the home owner and a man working on the home. The force of the explosion was so great that it leveled the home, damaged the two adjacent homes and threw debris across the street into a park where children were playing. When will Oregonians say “Enough is enough”? Legalization may not have caused this deadly incident, but it sure did contribute to it.
Oregon’s beautiful city, Portland, gained fame through the TV series Portlandia. People are nice and the drivers are generally more polite there. Although most major cities saw declines in real estate values during the recession, Portland’s real estate values rose very high. With its food culture, microbreweries and movie theaters, Portland has become the place “young people go to retire.” How long will the reputation last?
Marijuana labs — sometimes called hash oil labs or BHO labs — were exploding before legalization, but the problem grew bigger after marijuana possession became legal in July 2015. The number of burn victims rose from 7 to 30 within a year. Today marijuana users can buy “wax” or “dabs” from licensed dispensaries, but it is cheaper to make at home using butane. Unlicensed chemists who run the marijuana labs may be trying to sell their own supply to undercut the legal market. Or they be so addicted that risking death is not enough to stop them.
(Washington and Colorado outlawed the BHO labs after legalization; Oregon and California passed laws against the practice before legalizing weed. Since those laws aren’t working, some places in California are banning the sale of butane.)
What about mental health care?
The Vermont legislature failed to legalize pot this year. Vermont’s savvy governor probably recognized the need for more mental health care before legalizing a substance that assaults the brain. Former Congressman Patrick Kennedy, who makes mental health care his mission, had been warning of this problem. Oregon illustrates the problem of not having a rock solid, foolproof mental health care system in place before legalizing marijuana.
Twice this year, psychotic stoners brought knives onto the public transportation in Portland and terrified the public. On May 26, Jeremy Christian killed two men who were defending the Muslim women he was attacking. He had declared his love for cannabis on Facebook. Christian’s behavior was consistent with marijuana-induced psychosis.
On May 10, a 24-year-old in a mental health crisis terrified a group of people on the train, including a 17-year-old. Unfortunately a policeman shot Terrell Johnson to death. An investigation has cleared the officer of wrongdoing. Johnson began smoking pot at age 12 or 13. He was a healthy, “normal” young guy before THC assaulted his brain. The police officer had no choice when the guy pursued him. Anthony Bonofiglio, a man on a train the night before the final incident, described Johnson’s bizarre behavior in the police report. Johnson was in full-blown psychosis! His toxicology report revealed marijuana and a small amount of alcohol.
Psychosis is not a condition that the brain can just snap out of once it’s triggered. A hospital in the state of Washington gets one or two new psychosis patients every day. The medical staff at Providence St. Peter’s in Olympia stabilizes the patients with a drug Risperdal to stop the psychosis. It’s a temporary treatment which doesn’t solve the problem.
Other Accidents and Lawsuits in Portlandia
A stoned driver killed pedestrian Elizabeth Kemble within a week of the opening of commercial pot stores. Two months later, a driver high on pot killed bicyclist Martin Greenough in Portland. His family is suing the city of Portland. Furthermore, a construction worker who was burned in a hash oil explosion at a legal marijuana facility in Oregon is suing also. The District Attorney of Clatsop County Oregon, Josh Marquis, warned ahead of time that only the lawyers would benefit from legalization.
Marijuana is already popular and adults have a right to do what they want with their bodies. These popular arguments reveal how little our society cares about the young, mostly males, who go psychotic from marijuana. If they die or lose their minds, it was their choice to use substances, the legalizers say.
On the other hand, how long can we persist in ignoring the rights of others who are affected by this failed experiment? Marijuana labs do affect the neighbors, and they overwhelm our fire departments and burn centers.
Other marijuana-related emergency visits overwhelm the hospitals. All of us must pay for it in some way. We know marijuana legalization is not working in Washington, Colorado or California.
The common element in all these suicides or self-inflicted deaths was marijuana. Marijuana was the factor, not alcohol or other drugs…………in all cases. (Read Part 1 and Part 2)
Marc Bullard, 23 Colorado
Brant Clark, 17 Colorado
Tron Dohse, 26 Colorado
Luke Goodman, 23 Colorado, traveling from Oklahoma
Daniel Juarez, 18 Colorado
Shane Robinson, 25 California
Rashaan Salaam, 41 Colorado
Levy Thamba, 19 Colorado, traveling from Wyoming
Hamza Warsame, 16 Washington
Andy Zorn, 31 Arizona
Four of these victims — Warsame, Thamba, Juarez, Clark — had experienced pot-induced psychosis during the period leading to their deaths. Juarez was an outstanding soccer player who got very high with a friend the night he stabbed himself 20 times. The suicide report showed he had 38.2 ng of marijuana in his blood, eight times the limit for Colorado drivers. Toxicologists tested him for methamphetamine and other substances, but the results turned out to be negative. Although the death occurred in 2012, CBS News obtained the police report in 2015 and made it public at that time. Juarez´s sister claims he would not have killed himself had he not gotten stoned that night.
Suicidal thoughts can come on very quickly while under the influence in individuals who were not previously suicidal. The suddenness of suicidal ideation means that intervention may be impossible.
Dohse’s death was determined to have been an accident. Unable to find his keys, Dohse climbed up the apartment building and fell. The toxicology report 27.3 ng. of marijuana in his blood, but no other drugs or alcohol in his system. As his sister told CBS, she believes marijuana impairment led her brother to make poor decisions the night of his death. (Read Part 1 for more background on Warsame, Dohse, Juarez and Clark)
The story of Levy Thamba is particularly tragic since he was on a student visa to this country. He came from the Democratic Republic of Congo to study engineering in Wyoming. While visiting Denver with friends, he tried a marijuana edible for the first time. It was a pot-infused cookie, the effects of which don´t appear immediately. About two hours later, he became acutely psychotic, thinking pictures were jumping off the wall. The friends calmed him down before going to sleep, but his psychosis returned. He ran from his room to the sixth floor balcony, jumping to his death.
Thamba’s death is often described along with the death of Kristine Kirk. She called 911 because her husband, Richard Kirk, wanted her to shoot him, after he ate a marijuana candy. By the time, help came, he shot Kristine, mother of their three children, instead.
Bullard, Salaam and Robinson appear to have been suffering from depression as a result of heavy and/or extended pot use. Marc Bullard was “dabbing.” Andy Zorn, a veteran who had been taking medical marijuana, knew he had to quit marijuana to survive. But he couldn’t quit and so took his own life. (Many people begin smoking pot after being told “it’s not addictive.”)
Marijuana Withdrawal is a Risk, Too
Although Shane Robinson had experienced two periods of pot-induced psychosis, he was having marijuana withdrawal syndrome at the time of his death. According to a program of Dr. Drew Pinsky back in 2003, there is “an extraordinarily high incident of suicide in the first six months of marijuana abstinence.”
Most striking about the youths we describe is that they did not begin pot use because of depression. All of these deaths occurred in marijuana-friendly states where the social situation was an influence on their pot use. Lori Robinson, Shane’s mother, warns that educating against drugs and modelling a healthy lifestyle without drug use doesn’t work today. It is no match for current cultural trends and government policy which normalizes pot use.
Most who die in marijuana-related suicides are male, but women and girls are still at risk. One of our supporters attempted suicide in her 20s after years of daily pot use, failed relationships and domestic violence. Her attempt was not successful. Today she is 29 years sober and her survival is a blessing. Not all people will be as lucky. Males are generally more successful in suicide attempts, because their methods are often more efficient.
Pot is the Common Element, not an Underlying Mental Health Issue
These youths banish the claim that mental health problems always come before the marijuana use. (A strong misconception is that mental illness after using pot only affects those with previous mental health issues.) The deaths described here include active psychotic reactions at the time of marijuana use, as well as depression from long-term use.
The lives of these young men need to be a warning to states trying to legalize marijuana. Suicide rates in Colorado have reached all-time highs and each one of Colorado’s 21 health regions had a suicide rate higher than the national average, according to a February report by the Colorado Health Institute.
When the pot industry tells us that “no one ever died from marijuana,” they’re lying. Maybe it is time for the CDC to start tracking marijuana-related deaths.
These 10 deaths are just a few of the many self-inflicted deaths related to marijuana use. Lori Robinson has assembled more stories of marijuana-related deaths and psychosis on the website of Moms Strong. Read these stories on momsstrong.org.