Cannabis Use is Always Relevant in Cases of Mental Imbalance
Washington Shooter Arcan Cetin opened fire in the Macy’s at Cascade Mall, killing 5 people on September 23. Three women and one 16-year-old girl died immediately; the man died later. It happened in Burlington, about 30 miles north of Seattle.
The Cascade Mall shooter was 20 years old and had graduated from high school the previous year. He was born in Turkey, but raised on Whidbey Island. Cetin had a track record of arrests, including three charges of domestic violence, plus drunk driving. It is clear that the courts were trying to help him. His family was quite patient.
Washington Shooter Had Marijuana Trail
The Seattle Times reports that Cetin was homeless at one time during high school. Marty Baldwin and his wife allowed Cetin to live with him. “Baldwin kicked him out a few months later after learning the younger man was using and selling drugs, he said.” (Marijuana became legal for adults over 21 in December 2012, although it wasn’t sold in stores until the middle of 2014.)
Kiro News reports of incidents from the past year: “A prosecutor asked about firearms, and Cetin’s mother said those were removed, according to court records. As the case continued in 2015, additional counseling was recommended….. That case was tracked with a separate Island County case involving another alleged victim.
“As part of that misdemeanor case, Cetin was ordered to undergo a mental health evaluation in August 2015. The evaluation was completed as of March 2016, according to court records.
“There also were questions in the court file about cannabis use. But last April a judge asked how that related to his mental health evaluation, saying it was not a mental health issue….” This judge did not understand the influence of marijuana on violence and negative mental health outcomes. Although Cetin was not allowed to own guns, he stole his father’s guns.
Governor Inslee Looks for Answers
Governor Jay Inslee spoke at a Press Conference after the shooting. He said, “Passivity in the face violence is unacceptable,” and that “I don’t have the answers.” Getting to the answers includes finding out how this Washington shooter compares with other young shooters and shopping mall shooters.
Jaylen Fryberg, a 15-year-old who shot and killed 5 at his high school in Marysville, Washington, two years ago, left a record of his marijuana habit on Twitter. It happened after marijuana was legalized in Washington for those 21 and over, but not for teens.
When we track stories that make national news, marijuana use is often a common trait in many young killers. Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and the Columbine shooters were also marijuana users. Neither Fryberg nor Tsarnaev appeared mentally unstable to their classmates. On the other hand, Arcan Cetin’s high school classmates thought he was disturbed, and he did not fit in.
On September 26, Nathan DeSai shot and injured 9 at a Houston strip mall. According to neighbors, he had been acting erratically lately. The police report said, “There were also reports of heavy pot use in DeSai’s apartment,” and that there were numerous complaints about the strong marijuana odor coming from his unit.
Two other mall shooters, the Clackamas Mall shooter in Oregon and the Columbia Mall shooter in Maryland, had both mental illness and histories of marijuana use.
The Marijuana – Mental Illness Links
“The kids who start to use marijuana at a young age are much more likely to experience longer-term mental health problems,” Dr. Neal McKeganey warned more than a decade ago. Since teens have many adjustment problems to begin with, parents, schools and communities need to spread this message more firmly. We can expect children of immigrants to have many challenges–disrupted living experiences, culture shock and even memories of violence. Whatever trauma a child may have witnessed in the homeland will be carried in memory and could make adjustment difficult.
Any state that legalizes marijuana must realize at-risk children will be susceptible to marijuana and drug abuse. Cetin’s drug/marijuana history is reminiscent to that of the Ottawa shooter, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau. It may have have come before his mental health issues. (We hope that Canada and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau take notice of the mental health warnings.)
Americans ask why we have such a violent society, but fail to acknowledge the widespread drug usage. Murders would probably be about 30% less frequent, if marijuana use were completely eliminated. Not all acts of mass violence would go away. However, mass shootings could be less frequent. As a society, we cannot ignore these correlations between marijuana and violence when:
- a shooter’s psychosis or other mental illness is triggered by marijuana use – (Eddie Routh, football player Aaron Hernandez, Chattanooga shooter, Arcan Cetin, the Ottawa shooter, the Nice terrorist are recent examples)
- marijuana use numbs feelings to such an extent that shooters feel no sympathy for victims (Jaylen Fryberg, Boston terrorists, Dylann Roof, some of the Paris terrorists)