September marked the 10th anniversary of my son Justin’s death at age 17 from an accidental drug overdose. The medical examiner’s report months later said it was heroin that killed him. But I have to say for Justin it all began with marijuana, and I’m angrier at marijuana than I am at heroin. Here’s why.
Justin was a good student, an extremely talented musician and songwriter on the verge of completing the recording of his first original music album. On Sunday, Sept. 7, 2008, Justin spent the afternoon with people we didn’t know and came home later than expected as he readied for his first full week as a senior at Yorktown High School. He never woke up that Monday morning. Somewhere along the way that Sunday he had snorted heroin. Continue reading New York Dad says marijuana complicit in son’s heroin overdose death→
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.
Our criminal justice system is under fire. The lack of adequate mental health care is in the news. The mistreatment of the mentally ill who are incarcerated is also coming under scrutiny. Prevention through a comprehensive school drug education program in the United States could greatly diminish all three of these problems. Continue reading Time to Recognize Pot as Part of Mental Health Problem→