More Reefer Madness in Florida?

On March 29,  a Florida man stabbed his parents during a mental episode following vape pen use.  The description of his behavior suggests that Alexander Figueroa was in the throes of a cannabis-induced psychosis. 

The Florida Supreme Court issued a ruling on April 1, allowing for the legalization of marijuana.  Governor DeSantis correctly states it would diminish the quality of life in Florida, but the state of mental health and public safety should be the biggest concern. 

Floridians have experienced many cases of“Reefer Madness” over the years, and a ballot to legalize marijuana will give residents the chance to vote on further normalization of this drug.  This article is the second in a series of explaining outstanding episodes of “Reefer Madness.”   Read Ten Years After the Deaths of Levy Thamba and Kristine Kirk, part 1

Parkland Shooter Blamed Marijuana for his Actions

Nikolas Cruz killed 17 students and injured 17, at Marjory Stoneham Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, on Valentine’s Day, 2018. In his initial police interview, he confessed “that he had used a lot of marijuana and had taken a lot of the prescription tranquilizer Xanax.”   He also talked about “hearing voices.”

At his trial, he said: “I hate drugs, and I believe this country would do better if everyone would stop smoking marijuana and doing all these drugs and causing racism and violence out in the streets.”  Cruz was correct; mixing cannabis with his traumatic life was a recipe for disaster.  (We don’t disregard other difficult factors in Nikolas Cruz’s life: developmental delays, the death of his adoptive father, the recent death of his adoptive mother and his birth mother’s use of drugs and alcohol. )

The shooting demonstrates one more reason not to increase access to cannabis by legalizing it.  The New York Times reported that the school shooter in Uvalde used pot, too. Calling out the role of marijuana in school shootings is not an argument for gun rights or against gun control laws. 

More Cannabis-Induced Psychosis in Florida  

On March 24, 2023, Aiden Fucci was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Tristyn Bailey, in St. John’s Cty, FL.  He committed the crime when he was 14 and she was 13. Interviews with friends give some clues.  His best friend described Fucci as “a big pothead.”  He said, “All Aiden talked about was marijuana.” His girlfriend describes him getting high frequently and said that he beat up a kid to steal his vape pen. His friends also said he heard voices and stated that he wanted to kill, but they didn’t take him seriously. 

In November, 2023, Camille Balla, a Florida woman, pled guilty to manslaughter.  She fatally stabbed her mother and gouged out her eyes in 2018. At the time, she had told paramedics that she smoked marijuana before the grizzly slaying and she believed the pot was laced with another substance. Balla’s attorneys probably could have used the cannabis-induced psychosis defense. Instead, Balla pled guilty to manslaughter and received a 15-year prison sentence, much of which has already been served.

Psychosis and eating the victims

In Florida, August 15, 2016, Austin Harrouf, 19, a Florida college student killed a couple in their garage.  He was caught trying to eat one of the victim’s faces. Austin had been developing a psychotic disorder for a few weeks when it got suddenly worse.  He had been smoking marijuana a lot the previous summer but gave up all drugs a few days before the violent attack. The psychiatric report reveals the relationship of his condition to pot use.  He had no idea that his cannabis could trigger him to behave this way.  Instead of going to prison, Harrouf was committed to a mental health facility.

The other famous face-eating man lived in Florida back in 2012.  When Rudy Eugene attacked a homeless man and ate his face, the press assumed that he had used bath salts.  Instead, the toxicology report revealed THC as the only drug in his system.  “The Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner said in a news release that the toxicology detected marijuana but it didn’t find any other street drugs, alcohol or prescription drugs. Eugene also tested negative for adulterants commonly mixed with street drugs.”

How serious is cannabis – induced psychosis? 

While most people who use marijuana regularly will not become psychotic or violent, the stronger potencies of today raise the risk of psychosis.  Psychosis can develop in the long term or it can come on quite suddenly, with no preparation.  We suggest all parents read Alex Berenson’s Tell Your Children the Truth about Marijuana, Mental Illness and Violence.

While Governor DeSantis complains about the smell and reduced quality of life for families, ignoring the dangers of cannabis-induced psychosis represents the biggest danger.  

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