(Part 1 shows child justice failures in Court. Part 2 of this series is about neglected children who died in fires. Part 3 covers children who die in hot cars and in drownings. Part 4 explains parents who are addicted or psychotic from marijuana. Part 5 shows how children die through violence related to pot. Part 6 presents a solution. Download our updated fact sheet on 80 deaths from marijuana. Read a previous article,Three Children Die in Colorado.)
43 Unnecessary Deaths, the Innocent Victims of Parents’ Pot Habits
On January 13, 2014, two-year old Levi Welton tragically died in a fire in Colorado while his parents smoked pot. Also in January, 2014, Heather Jensen was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for the deaths of her sons, ages 2 and 4. The Jensen boys died in a hot car while their mom left them and smoked pot — a few weeks after Colorado’s historic vote to legalize marijuana.
The stories were in the Denver news the same month that recreational marijuana stores opened in Colorado, January 2014. The national press ignored these two horror stories with a marijuana connection, but made a huge issue of marijuana commercialization, the story promoted by the marijuana industry.
Getting to the Truth
Since Colorado and Washington voted to legalize pot, dozens of children have died nationwide because their parents’ or caretaker’s pot use took priority over them. This series profiles 43 children who died….and a few who survived. An infant was inside the house when a hash oil lab exploded in Puyallup, WA, on May 20, 2014. (watch the video) The baby survived, but the blast was huge. Extracting butane hash oil is very dangerous. See Komo News photo above.
Many of the deaths occurred because of negligence by stoned parents who forgot about their kids. The claim that pot is “no worse than alcohol or “safer than alcohol” has misled a generation of young adults who are now having children. Eight of the deaths were caused by fires and 6 happened to children left in hot cars. There were 5 drownings and 18 violent deaths. Three babies didn’t survive infancy because of their mothers’ pot use. At least 5 of the deaths occurred in Colorado, and 8 in California which has the nation’s oldest and largest “medical” marijuana program.
What type of society are we to let this happen while the marijuana promoters are intent on covering up the truth?
Here’s an example of how marijuana-impairment isn’t taken seriously. In California, a 16-month-old toddler died in the care of a babysitter who went outside to smoke pot on Nov. 20, 2013. The sitter went into her niece’s car to smoke marijuana for 35 minutes, while leaving Manny Mercado inside. The baby later came outside without being noticed. The visitor’s car ran over him, crushing his skull. The babysitter was acquitted in two trials.
Marijuana in Child Custody, Visitation and Protection Services
Ironically, Levi Welton, the 2-year-old Colorado boy who died in a fire right after legal pot stores opened, had recently returned to his parent’s house from foster care. He tested positive for THC in the hair a week before the fire incident that killed him. Child Protection Services often find themselves making difficult decisions, but states with generous tolerance of marijuana make their jobs more difficult.
According to California Alliance for Drug-Endangered Children, 12 children were injured in hash oil explosions since 2013, and one died in 2014.* When medical marijuana users and “patients” use marijuana to make “dabs” or hash oil, they use flammables such as butane. Adults die most frequently from hash oil fires, but last year 41 hash oil labs operated in California where children were present. BHO explosions in Colorado, Oregon, Montana and Washington left children injured.
Furthermore, 14 children were treated for marijuana poisoning in Colorado last year, mainly from pot edibles. So far this year, there have been 14 children treated for marijuana poisonings in the state of Washington. The more pot promoters say that marijuana is harmless, the number of neglected and abused children will grow. Some will suffer and die — unnecessarily. Marijuana should raise red flags when judges decide custody and visitation.
Children who died in Fires
Two-year-old Levi Welton died in a fire while his parents used pot with friends in another room. He went into a closet to escape. Levi’s 5-year-old brother survived the fire. One of the boys probably started the fire by playing with matches left by the parents. The parents, Julia and Christopher Welton (shown above), escaped.
Two sets of twins died in fires related to marijuana last year. The 3-year old Arthur twins were home alone cooking while their mother left to look for marijuana, an obvious sign of a very, very addicted mom. In the case of 3-year-old Abbott twins, their father admitted to using a torch to smoke marijuana the night before the fire. He also used Ecstasy and hydrocodone. The room with the torch and a propane canister may have exploded. The mother was separated from her husband who had changed over the previous year, become a big drug user.
Indiana’s harsh sentencing laws means Brandon Abbott is facing 70 years of jail We ask, why do very addicted parents have custody and visitation at all? Why do courts allow it without taking the drug use into consideration? Do the judges think drug habits will magically disappear with the responsibility of parenting? If the law is so determined to suddenly make a parent responsible, why don’t they require drug rehabilitation and abstinence?
Niya Sosa-Martinez, Andre’s mother, was home when the 4-year-old died, but too stoned to react. She had smoked from her bong at 11 a.m., fell asleep and left the pot paraphernalia in a dangerous position to catch fire. When her son woke her, she saved herself but didn’t think quickly to save him. Niya is a victim of addiction, in a state with little drug education. She’s in jail 11 years, but shouldn’t the pot activists who shamelessly promote the drug share some blame?
Lileigh Kellenears’ mother, Kristen Braig, and her boyfriend left the 3-year-old alone for a short awhile, while going to a neighbor’s mobile home. Having smoked pot earlier that night, and drinking, they left burning candles in the home as the girl slept. Yet they were within yards of the house, and had been gone only about 15 minutes. Boyfriend Dustin Blanchard valiantly tried to save Lileigh.
Braig and Blanchard came from Wyoming. They were visiting Colorado where pot was suddenly legal. How were they supposed to know about “responsible use of marijuana” coming from another state? (Luke Goodman was another out-of-state visitor who killed himself in March, after eating pot edibles without adequate warning). Their bad judgment came under the influence of the weed. Shouldn’t the state share responsibility for this death, legalizing a dangerous substance and inviting tourism based on it?
The marijuana of today is much stronger than it was 25 years ago. State policies of marijuana tolerance, or tolerance of parenting with drug addiction (the Abbott twins in Indiana), share some of the blame. It’s not clear that Pennsylvania could have done anything earlier to save the Arthur twins, but the political push for marijuana certainly may be a factor in encouraging the mom’s use of pot. (Cosmopolitan recently published the story by a mom of young twins who uses pot for anxiety, proof of a dangerous legitimization of use by parents of young children.)
The tragic deaths of Tyler and William Jensen, the first children to die from child neglect after Colorado legalized marijuana, are in Part 3. Sign up by email to get this update and other blog articles.
(Editor’s note: News of nine more deaths involving marijuana use more have surfaced since we wrote our articles: a baby shot in the head, a drowning death in Maine, a two-year-old in Indiana, a two-year old in Cincinnati who had been beaten most of her life, and an infant, Natalee Skinner-Hurst in Denver. The caseworker has been accused of false reports in the last case; the mother was a long-time marijuana user. Four children died in a fire in Missouri, parents cited for numerous pot violations.)
*Sue Webber-Brown, California Alliance for Drug-Endangered Children.