Crashes, Fires, Shootings Cause 18 Deaths

There have been at least 15 deaths directly caused by marijuana (and 3 more deaths with pot a probable cause), in Washington state since December, 2012, when marijuana possession became legal:

3 teens killed in crash by student driver high on marijuana                         5 pedestrian deaths in Vancouver, WA                                                                   5 deaths in a school shooting including the gunman                                     2 neighbors died after hash oil explosions                                                            2 shooting deaths for robbing a marijuana grow.                                               1 motorcyclist killed by a stoned driver

“THE world is watching Washington’s historic experiment with marijuana legalization, and we’re screwing it up.” claimed a recent editorial in the Seattle Times.  

When a state decides to legalize and regulate yet another vice, children and teens perceive that vice as harmless.   A 17-year old Olympic High School student smoked marijuana the hour before crashing into a tree on January 11, 2015.  The driver survived, but the 3 students riding in the car with him died. 

A 47-year old stoned driver drove on the sidewalk in Vancouver, WA, and hit 7-year old Cadence Boyer, on Halloween, 2014.  She died two days later, while the victim’s mother, her 6-year old friend and her mother’s friend sustained critical injuries.

Five pedestrian deaths have occurred in this small city of 160,000 residents since marijuana possession became legal on December 5, 2012.  The first pedestrian death was a week later, on December 12.  The driver had smoked “a bowl of marijuana.”   The details surrounding the deaths of two women who were thrown 35 and 66 feet in January, 2014, is a little hazier, because the driver fled the scene and was not found until many days later.  An investigation into the most recent pedestrian death is still pending.

In anticipation of opening stores for recreational marijuana on July 7, 2014, Washington mounted a campaign, “Drive High and Get a DUI.”  Marijuana possession was legal for 19 months before the stores opened, and it was during this period that a motorcyclist was killed by a stoned driver in Bellevue.   The driver, who showed his medical marijuana card, had 9.8 ng/ml marijuana in his blood — 2x the legal limit — three hours after the collision.

A 24- year old mother in Centralia, WA, shared a bong with 22-month old son, as friends laughed.
A 24- year old mother in Centralia shared a bong with 22-month old son, as friends laughed.

Marijuana in the Schools, with Young Adults

Efforts to normalize the use of marijuana for adults also influences teens, and has an effect on our high schools.  It  forces us to examine cases of teen violence.  If we look into one of the most recent school shootings in Marysville, north of Seattle, we find that marijuana figures prominently in the public Twitter feeds of shooter Jaylen Fryberg.  Fryberg invited his ex-girlfriend, his cousins and other friends to eat lunch with him and promptly shot them. The shooter and four victims died, while one survived.  Sentiments Fryberg and his former girlfriend expressed publicly on their Twitter accounts revealed that marijuana was a significant part of his life.  The popular boy was a user who admitted to smoking a lot to deal with the couple’s breakup, while his ex-girlfriend wrote that she felt marijuana made him dumb.

Marijuana edibles have turned up in Seattle schools, with children as young as 5th grade.    High THC drinks have been  confiscated in the high schools, and the marijuana violations have been more frequent in the middle schools.

In September, 2014, students and adults held a party with marijuana at a high school in Tumwater, WA.  Last June, a 16-year old girl at school in Puyallup brought pot-infused brownies and lemon squares to school and shared them with her classmates. Three unsuspecting students got sick.  When police went to arrest her, they found 100 marijuana plants growing in the home, higher than the legal limit. Police also found that the father had a hash oil extraction lab.

In March, 2013, a 24-year old mother in Centralia was arrested after a cell-phone video of her giving a 22-month old son marijuana from a bong had surfaced.  She was smoking pot with friends, friends who dared her to give the marijuana to him.  The mother explained her action as a response to “social pressure.”  It was three months after marijuana became legal.  We can expect much child neglect/abuse if our young adult parents continue smoking pot after having children.

BHO Explosions Spike

The big new crime associated with the expansion of marijuana is  butane hash oil (BHO), a highly potent form of marijuana frequently made at home labs. Butane hash oil explosions near Seattle have been testing public services to the limits.   One fire in Bellevue required 100 fire fighters and police officers.  The fire destroyed an entire 10-unit apartment building, killed one woman and dislocated all residents.  Two women who jumped from the upper floors of the building and landed on grass sustained several broken bones.  Property damage totaled $1.5 million to the building,and $500,000 to the contents.

Amazingly, police had investigated two of the men three weeks prior to the explosion, but they got off by showing medical marijuana cards and telling police that they did not make hash oil.   Although no charges were initially filed in Washington against the makers of BHO, charges have been filed for the endangerment of human life.  The Bellevue fire was only the beginning of a trend to follow.

Hash oil burn on arm.  Photo, published in the Oregonian, from Legacy Emanuel Burn Center.  Photo above: Arden-Arcade fire, from Sacramento County Attorney's office
A fire in Hampton Green Apartments, Bellevue, WA, required 100 firefighters and police and lasted 7 hours. One neighbor died, 10 apartment units were destroyed, everyone was displaced.

On March 11, 2014, three 20-year olds, renting the basement of a home in Shelton, WA, were making the hash oil. A fire and everyone was displaced, including the family who owned the house and lived upstairs.  One magazine used the term March Madness to describe a stream of explosions that happened last March.

On the eastern end of the state, in Spokane, an explosion in January 2014 caused a neighbor to have extreme respiratory problems.  He died two months later.  Another explosion happened when a man making BHO attempted to light a cigarette while using a PVC pipe and a coffee filter, according to court records. The car he was driving exploded.  He faces assault and drug charges, as his 3-year-old daughter was injured in the blast.   Spokane is taking action, passing laws to make BHO manufacturing illegal.

While hash oil explosions are not part of Washington’s legal marijuana program, they are bound to happen where there are lax rules.  Also, the state’s medical marijuana program promotes addiction and addicts want and need a stronger fix.  Other hash oil explosions that occurred last year:  Jan. 1st,  Kirkland; January 6, Seattle; March 10, Seattle; May 21, Puyallup, May 30, Centralia, June 4, Seattle and November 24, in Seattle again.

The aftermath of a hash oil explosion in Puyallup, Washington, May 20, 2014
The aftermath of a hash oil explosion in Puyallup, Washington, May 20, 2014.  Ten people, including an infant, were in the house at the time.

Poisonings and Death Toll from Marijuana

Calls to the Washington Poison Center for marijuana exposures increased to 246 in 2014, up from 158 in 2013.  There were 48 calls involving children ages 12 and under, some of them who had accidentally eaten marijuana edibles.   Around half of the calls last year resulted in hospital visits, with most of the patients being evaluated and released from an emergency room. Ten people were admitted to intensive care units — half of them under 20 years old.

Californians can look to Washington as the example that unregulated “medical” marijuana doesn’t convert to regulation with  legalization.   Washington’s marijuana legalization establishes an age limit of 21 and has limits on driving under the influence of marijuana. These restrictions aren’t working.  Efforts to merge the “medical” and recreational marijuana markets are underway.

Washington recreational marijuana stores are not allowed to sell edibles, as in Colorado.  Yet 80 % THC drinks were confiscated in a Seattle school recently. The state’s relaxed attitudes towards the drug send a message that marijuana isn’t dangerous, and it’s led to many tragedies.

What about crime and shootings?  The day that home marijuana possession became legal in Washington, two hooded intruders were shot to death during a break-in attempt on an indoor growing operation in Puyallup.

How can anyone think crime will go down with legalization?   How can anyone justify the cost for an increased need of fire and emergency medical services, involving poisonings, car accidents and burn care directly related to marijuana?

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