Callous Disregard for Human Life in Pursuit of Profit and Getting Stoned
In California, a mother will soon go on trial for the drunk driving crash that killed her daughter and daughter’s friend. The girls were skateboarding on a rural road in Humboldt County when a vehicle hit them. Toxicology reports revealed that the 14-year-old girls had THC in their blood. Marci Kitchen allegedly fled the scene of the accident on July 12, 2016 and tried to get rid of the pot in the car. A judge has called for a jury to decide if she’s guilty of drunk driving and homicide.
In Washington, a man high on marijuana killed policeman Jake Gutierrez. He was holding his 6-year-old daughter while in a standoff with multiple police that lasted 10 hours. The perpetrator claimed to be a sheriff named “Zeus.” Bruce Randall Johnson, 38, had been unraveling for weeks before police fired the shots that killed him. “A regular marijuana user, he’d been smoking more lately,” according to KIRO 7. The autopsy revealed: “Johnson’s body weighed in at a spindly 104 pounds. He had no drugs in his system, apart from high concentrations of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.”
In March, Brandon Powell, an 18-year-old, went psychotic after smoking marijuana “dabs ” in Estacada, Oregon. He left home barefoot in pajama bottoms and went missing until found dead in a river earlier this month. Also in Estacada last weekend, a man carried a severed head into a convenience store and stabbed a store clerk. The incident happened after a woman was reported dead in her home. She was the mother of 36-year-old Joshua Lee Webb who has been connected to the crime. He allegedly killed his mother first. Nothing in reports links the killing to marijuana.
It might be easy to pass judgment on people like Marci Kitchen and Bruce Johnson, but what about state policy that normalizes marijuana use? Kitchen grew pot beside her garage, but she lives in a county where everyone does it.
Murders under the influence of marijuana often happen because the perpetrators become psychotic and hallucinate.
In Wisconsin recently, a mother murdered her toddler after smoking pot. In West Virginia, the “Pretty Little Killers” planned and killed a friend under the influence of marijuana. It is easy to judge and condemn the perpetrators of violent crimes, but what of the culture that promotes marijuana? What of the culture that tells 14-year-olds it’s ok to get stoned and go skateboarding?
Profit Before People Drives the Legalization Ballots
Marijuana-induced insanity is recognized in every part of the world except North America. It appears that the United States and Canada prioritize profit over mental health, safety and human life. Voters pass these ballots even though there is no definitive, reliable test to detect stoned drivers, as there is for drunk drivers.
Legislative analysis for California Proposition 64 was written to emphasize that the state could earn 1 billion dollars annually.
The California government obviously thinks the tax money the state can earn from intoxication and addiction is the highest priority. The opening statement on the ballot to legalize marijuana used profit as motivating reason to legalize. That’s government motivated by preying on its own people. The press is guilty of the same mentality that emphasizes profits over human costs.
Press Ignored Child Abuse Deaths in Colorado; Will Cover-up Continue?
When marijuana stores opened in Colorado in January 2014, a toddler died in a fire while his parents smoked pot in another room. The mother was a medical marijuana cardholder, and the press should have covered the incident. During the same month another mother who smoked pot while her two sons died of carbon monoxide poisoning went on trial. These stories were in the local Press, but did not make national news.
According to NBC News, the driver who rammed into crowds in Times Square yesterday admitted to smoking marijuana before driving. He killed an 18-year-old girl and injured 22 others. Condolences to the heart-broken family of Alyssa Elsman. Other news services reported “he smoked something” or “mind-altering drug” or “synthetic marijuana.” Are they covering up behalf of the pot industry? Like the New York Times, do they want to legalize marijuana and try to downplay the bad news about pot?
When stoners argue in favor of legalization, they use the deaths caused by alcohol to promote their cause. The truth is that neither drunk driving nor stoned driving should be tolerated. But marijuana has more of a propensity to cause madness and psychosis. National policy which refuses to warn the public, along with states that promote a dangerous drug industry, share the blame for deaths.
No state successfully regulates to keep potent marijuana extracts — as used by Brandon Powell — away from teens. Those who value profit and tax money over people claim legalization is successful. Sadly, profit over human life is becoming the American way.
Anti-Pot Movement Starts New Project After More States Vote to Legalize
After spending more than $20 million, the deep pocketed pro-marijuana investors prevailed in California. They also won in Nevada and Massachusetts, with the votes much closer. Arizona fended off the attempt to legalize marijuana. Vermont elected a governor who said he is against marijuana legalization. Several Oregon cities rejected marijuana sales.
In Colorado, the products with a high amount of THC (the psychoactive quality that brings the high) have been responsible for most of the hospitalizations and deaths. However, the marijuana businesses bought out an attempt to put a ballot that would cap the THC at 16%. So far the marijuana industry has not been held accountable for its deceptive political and marketing tactics.
SAM Project Will Make Pot Accountable
Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) and its partners are spearheading a new initiative called the Marijuana Accountability Project (MAP). Our objective is to be a credible resource for the oversight of the recreational marijuana industry as it begins to take hold in states. There will be more ballots. SAM hopes that some states will defeat these ballot measures, but acknowledges that some are likely to pass. Regardless of outcome, SAM and the Marijuana Accountability Project will continue pushing back against the abusive practices of the marijuana industry in the states that have already legalized marijuana.
In their announcement SAM said: “We cannot let another industry dead-set on hooking a new generation gain an unfettered foothold in society without a watchdog at their back. We intend to launch the initiative in late 2016 with a press conference in Washington, D.C., where we will outline our objectives, year one activities, and a new research report that shows the true cost of marijuana legalization on the health of states.
MAP will include the following activities in 2017:
Congressional Outreach: SAM will boost federal lobbying efforts to stop legalization on the federal level. State Report Card Tracking Project: Evaluate the states with legal recreational marijuana across the following metrics: Public health (incidence rates of poisonings across age and demos), public safety (car crashes, ER visits), marketing (evaluate and compare based on other legal drugs), political influence (track lobbying and spending), and economic impact (promises made on funding, promises kept?) Community Roundtables: We anticipate holding up to five community roundtables, open to the media, in select states in the first year. At these events, we will release the results of the tracking project, and hear from citizens who have been impacted by legalization and the industry as a whole. These roundtables will serve two purposes: show the real life impact of legalization, and promote MAP as a critical oversight voice. Public Education/PSA Campaign: SAM will launch a media campaign called “Are We Sure?” that asks localities if they really want marijuana stores in their neighborhoods. The campaign will also be used in non-legalization states, and will educate the public on today’s high THC marijuana and its impacts. Earned Media: Earned media will be a critical component to ensure the accountability messaging and approach is well understood in our target states, and pushes the agenda forward. Our tactics will include op-eds, rapid response, editorial board visits, press conferences, and reporter briefings. Organization of Municipalities Concerned about Marijuana (OMCM): OMCM will consist of officials from localities that have implemented strict controls on marijuana, including those that have banned marijuana stores altogether, and officials from other jurisdictions interested in promoting public health-based marijuana laws. Through OMCM, these localities will share best practices, model ordinances, and other strategies. SAM Legal Initiative: SAM will launch an initiative to hold marijuana businesses accountable to the law of the land, and research legal compliance issues. SAM State Legislative Caucus: The SAM State Legislative Caucus will bring together like-minded state legislators who want to stop legalization and commercialization, and share best practices on marijuana policy. Model laws: MAP will also develop copies of model state laws and local ordinances to control the marijuana industry, incorporating best practices from existing laws and input from scientific and legal experts. MAP needs founding partners.
Kevin Sabet, President of SAM said that we can change the trajectory of marijuana legalization. SAM released a statement at 3 a.m. : “Tonight’s results were disappointing overall, but given how we were outspent by 15 to 1, not wholly unsurprising,” said SAM President Kevin Sabet, who also served as a White House drug advisor. “There are several bright spots: Arizona resisted legalization and their campaign will be a blueprint for other states in the future. Vermont Governor-elect Phil Scott will be replacing the most pro-legalization governor in our history (Peter Shumlin), and a pushback is starting in Oregon. No matter what happens in Maine, we will be in a strong position when the legislature meets. We will redouble our efforts with this new Congress. And we won’t abandon the legalized states, where much work remains to be done.”
For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Born in Massachusetts, our son started out life with a very bright future. As a toddler he was interested in things with wheels, and anything his big sister was doing. As he got older, Legos was his obsession. In his early school days he tended to get really into a subject, even those of his own choosing. For a while it was Russian language and then it was the Periodic Table. He begged me to buy him a 2½-inch thick used Chemistry textbook before he was a pre-teen. I did.
I was able to be a stay-at-home parent until our son was 8. I tried to do all the right things. We played outside, limited screen time, and got together with other little ones and their moms for play groups. I read to him and his sister every night until they both reached middle school and wouldn’t let me anymore. Our son routinely tested in the 99th percentile on standardized tests and at least 3 grade levels above. Now, at age 17, he has dropped out of high school.
My husband and I both have Master’s degrees, and my husband is a public school administrator. His father is a retired architect. My mother is a retired elementary school teacher. Our family believes in education, we believe in learning and growing. When asked why he continues to use drugs, mostly marijuana, my son said, “I think it’s because of the people we’re around.”
In reflecting back on “What happened?” I blame marijuana. We now live in Colorado, where marijuana is legal and widely available to everyone. What if we had never moved here?
How it All Began
My son’s first time using was in 7th grade when marijuana was legal only if used medicinally with a “Red Card,” if recommended by a physician. Coloradans voted on legalization in November 2012 and marijuana stores opened in January, 2014. But back in 2012, he and some buddies got it from a friend’s older brother who had a Red Card. From what I can tell, the use just kept escalating until his junior year in high school when he was using at least once a day…and when he attempted suicide.
Between that first incident in 2012 and the suicide attempt in 2015, his father and I waged an all-out battle on the drug that was invading our home. We grounded him; I took to sleeping on the couch outside his bedroom because he was sneaking out in the middle of the night; we yelled and screamed; I cried, we cajoled and tried to reason with him: ”You have a beautiful brain! Why are you doing things that will hurt your brain?”
We did weekly drug tests, we enlisted the school’s support, we enlisted our family’s support and we even tried talking to his friends.
But nothing worked. Our son was in love with marijuana. Our sweet, smart, funny, sarcastic, irreverent, adorable boy was so enamored with this drug that nothing we did — NOTHING — made any difference. And we slowly lost him.
At the same time I was battling marijuana at home, I was also leading a group in our community to vote against legalizing it in our small town. I had teamed with a local business-owner and a physician and the three of us got the support of many prominent community members, including the school superintendent, the police chief, and the fire chief. We ran a full campaign, complete with a website where you could donate money, a Facebook page, and yard signs.
My son’s use isn’t the reason I got involved. I had started advocating against marijuana legalization long before I even realized he had a problem. My background is in health communication and I work in the hospital industry. I sit on our local Board of Health, so allowing retail stores to sell an addictive drug just doesn’t make any sense. I did think about my children; what I was modeling for them; what kind of community we were raising them in, and the kind of world I envisioned for their future. Those are the reasons I got involved. My son’s use is actually the reason that I’ve pulled away from any sort of campaigning.
Unfortunately, we lost our fight. So in 2014, it became legal in our small town to purchase pot without a Red Card. And the following year, his junior year, he almost slipped away from us forever.
It Got Scarier and Scarier
His use by then had escalated to daily (and I suspect often more than once a day). Pot seemed to be everywhere! We found it hidden all over the house — in the bathroom, on top of the china cabinet, in his closet, outside, even in his sister’s bedroom. It’s a hard substance to hide because of the strong smell. Even in the “pharmacy” bottles and wrapped in plastic bags, the skunk stench still manages to seep out. But it sure seemed easy for a young boy to get!
He started leaving school in the middle of the day, or skipping school altogether, and his grades plummeted. Where he was once an A/B student and on the varsity cross-country team, he was now failing classes and not involved in anything. This boy who had tested in the 99th percentile was failing high school. And this boy who had once been the levity in our home, who used to make me laugh like no one else could or has since, this boy became a stranger.
Our son withdrew from everything except his beloved drug. His circle of friends (never big in the first place), was reduced to only those who could supply him with marijuana. His relationship with his older sister all but disappeared. And his relationship with his father has been strained beyond almost all hope of repair.
Then in late 2015 our son attempted suicide. He was hospitalized, first overnight at the very hospital where I work, and then for a 3-day locked psychiatric unit stay. I remember very little from this difficult (and surreal) time except learning that it wasn’t his first attempt, and that he blamed us for how awful he felt. He started taking an antidepressant and after he was released we took him to a drug counselor for a total of three visits but after that he refused to go — he threatened to jump out of the car if we tried to take him. We tried a different counselor and that only lasted for one visit.
Changing Strategies and a Truce
At this point I convinced my husband that we had to approach things differently, because obviously what we were doing wasn’t working. We stopped the weekly drug tests (we knew he was using so there seemed to be no point anyway). We stopped yelling and punishing. And basically my husband stopped talking to our son altogether — they are both so angry and hurt that any communication turns toxic very quickly. He refused to go back to school so we agreed that he could do online classes.
There is an uneasy truce in our home right now. Now it just feels like waiting. Waiting for what will happen next. Waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Our son, 17, still lives with us. His sister left for college this past summer. I acknowledge that he uses pot and doesn’t want to quit, but I continue sending the message that it’s not good for his brain. The one thing my husband and I won’t bend on is no drugs on our property. He has started five different online classes, but has so far finished only one. He doesn’t feel any pressure to finish school — he says he’ll get a GED, but hasn’t made any effort towards that end. He doesn’t drive and doesn’t express any desire to learn, which is probably good because I doubt he could be trusted to drive sober. He started working at a local restaurant recently and has been getting good feedback from his managers, which I take to be a positive sign. (I’ll take any positive signs at this point!)
Trying Something Else and Blacking Out
I don’t know if the suicide attempt and hospitalization were rock bottom for our family, but I suspect not. Just this past weekend our son came home and I could tell he was on something — and it wasn’t marijuana or alcohol. I checked him periodically throughout the night and in the early morning he was awake and asked me how much trouble he was in. I replied that it depended on what he had taken. He said Xanax. He also said that he had blacked out and couldn’t remember anything that had happened from about an hour after he took it.
Later in the morning, when we were both more awake, I asked him about the Xanax (he got it from someone at the restaurant) and the pot use and what he saw for his future. He has no plans to stop using, but said that he probably wouldn’t take Xanax again (he didn’t like blacking out). He said that he’s very happy with his life right now, that he knows a lot of people who didn’t go to college who work two or three jobs and live in little apartments, and that he’s happy with that kind of future for himself.
I tried not to cry. Imagine that as the goal for a boy who started life with so much curiosity and such a desire to learn.
It’s not that I don’t think he can have a good and decent life without a college education. But I know that he’ll have a much harder life. Statistically, Americans with fewer years of education have poorer health and shorter lives (partly due to lack of adequate health insurance), and Americans without a high school diploma are at greatest risk. It’s not just life without a college education, but it is life with a brain that has been changed by marijuana. Will he be able to give up pot? If he does give up pot, will he recover the brain he had at one time? Will he lose motivation?
I asked him why he used pot when he knew how his father and I felt about it and when we had tried so hard to steer him in a different direction.
He said: “I think it’s because of the people we’re around. And all the drugs that are around.”
I’ve finally accepted that his use is not in the range of normal teenage experimentation, and I’m barely surviving on the hope that he’ll eventually grow out of it…and that he doesn’t do any permanent damage. In the meantime, I’m sorry that we ever moved here.