Three months after Colorado opened marijuana stores, Richard Kirk shot and killed his wife while she was on the phone with 911. On November 12, Lori Gliha, an investigative journalist from the news magazine program Insight with John Ferruggia interviewed him on Rocky Mountain PBS. Most viewers who watched the jailhouse interview agree that he wouldn’t have killed his wife had he not eaten the marijuana edible.
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.
There, a night of partying — Bacardi rum, Mike’s Hard Lemonade and half of a marijuana cookie — left her feeling so intoxicated she says could not get out of a car on her own that night when she went with Masina and a group of his friends to get fast food, and she said she cannot recall how she got back inside the house.
She said the next thing she remembered after passing out was waking up with Masina raping her.
“It hurt. It was very painful,” she said, and though she said she felt “scared and helpless,” she tried to move her legs to stop him.
“Did you consent in any way to the sexual contact you’ve been describing?” the prosecutor asked.
“No,” the woman said.
The woman testified she passed out and awoke several more times throughout the night, each time to a different horror: She awoke to Masina forcing her to engage in oral sex so rough she could not breathe; she awoke unable to move from a couch and unable to reach someone to come help her; she awoke, wearing only a bra and a blanket, on the lawn of a neighboring home where she saw Masina’s car still parked outside and “that fear came over me again because I knew he was still in the house.”
Calling Out the Role of Marijuana is not “Victim Shaming”
The description of the rape is horrible. The evidence suggests that the football player and the woman were abusing substances before the sexual activity occurred. The law should not excuse this behavior towards a woman who has passed out.
Nine days earlier, Masina, her high school friend, had invited the victim to Los Angeles for a long weekend. At that time, Masina, the woman and another football player, Max Hill, partied hard. The victim took marijuana, two Xanax pills along with alcohol The woman alleges that both Masina and Don Hill raped her. Masina and Hill were suspended from the team, but a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles has been dismissed.
Alcohol can produce some pretty outrageous behaviors, but when alcohol mixes with marijuana or other drugs, extremes happen. This case, the Stanford swimmer’s case and many others exemplify why we need to educate against intoxication. It is not “victim shaming” to explain that the 19-year-old would not have passed out if she had did not eat half a marijuana cookie. The effects of marijuana cookies happen about two hours after ingestion.
There is no mention of how and when Masina or the woman obtained the cookies. Who bought or provided the cookie? Was interstate drug trafficking involved? Calling out substance abuse as a factor doesn’t excuse rape, but it warns of the conditions in which rape is most likely to occur.
No on 2 Predicted Correctly
In 2014, the Florida Vote No on 2 Campaign forecast that marijuana would become the new date-rape drug. Journalists, respectable blogs and the marijuana industry laughed at the idea. No on 2’s prediction was correct. Let’s hope the prosecutor explores the role of the pot-laced cookie during the trial. It should serve as a warning against this type of impairment.
States should pass laws to clarify consent for sexual activity in order to guard against rape and unwanted sex. Equally important, educators need to inform about the role of substance abuse in domestic violence and rape. Pedophiles often give marijuana to their victims.
Even groups concerned with violence against women remain in the dark. Colleges don’t do enough to warn against drugs to avoid unwanted sex. In fact, the United States is quite backwards compared to other countries in failing to see the connection. Those who blame alcohol only, and not other drugs, are complicit in the denial.
When Hamza Warsame fell six floors to his death in December, 2015, the social media was abuzz with suggestions of a hate crime against the Muslim teen. Warsame, an immigrant from Somalia, was living in Seattle and had been invited to the 21-year-old classmate’s apartment.
However, the news came out that Warsame had smoked marijuana for the first time and had a psychotic reaction. He may have tried to jump to the next building’s roof. It wasn’t legal for a 16- year-old to smoke marijuana. But Washington is a marijuana state, and his 21-year-old classmate had bought it legitimately at a dispensary. (Signs along the highways of Washington warn that it’s illegal to buy or give alcohol to those under age 21. There should be similar warnings for marijuana.)
Less well known are the stories of Brant Clark and Daniel Juarez, featured on a CBS News Report of May, 2015. High potency pot has been the norm in Colorado since the early 2000s. Psychosis and hallucinations occur quite frequently. These teens became psychotic and killed themselves — before Coloradans voted to legalize recreational marijuana.
Tron Dohse was a young adult featured in the same evening news report that reported about Clark and Juarez. He overdosed on marijuana and fell to his death while trying to climb a building.
As one Colorado resident said, “If residents had known the horror story of why Daniel Juarez death in 2012, they never would have voted to legalize.” (Juarez’s photo is on top of the page.)
More Recent Suicides
More recently, there were the marijuana-related suicides Marc Bullard and Rashaan Salaam in Colorado. (These are the stories that made the news, so we don’t mention recent suicides from pot not in the news.) Salaam was 41, a former Heisman Trophy winner. He had a promising football career until 1999, when he lost his energy and began spending time smoking pot. He never got his life back and when he died there was 55 ng. of THC in his blood.
Like Salaam, Marc Bullard was living in Colorado at the time of his death. The Texas native had been a high school valedictorian, a successful college student and had landed a dream job. However, he had moved to Colorado and was doing dabs. In his journal, he recorded the downward spiral of depression and his inability to stop doing marijuana dabs. He was 23.
A landmark study published in the Lancet Psychiatry Journal, September, 2014, tracked teenage marijuana use in Australia and New Zealand. The subjects were tested for a variety of outcomes by age 30. The evidence showed that consistent early use below age 18 is connected to 7x the risk of attempted suicide before age 30.