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April 16, 2014

Another bizarre, sad and fatal case of reefer madness?

As reported in this prior post, a Denver coroner report concluded that a young man fell to his death in March after eating marijuana cookies which may have caused him to act erratically.  Now, as reported in this local article, headlined "Police looking at pot role in wife's murder," another sad and fatal event might be linked to marijuana use in Colorado. Here are the distressing details:

The Denver man accused of shooting his wife in their home is in jail without bond. Richard Kirk made his first court appearance on Wednesday. He's facing first-degree murder charges after reportedly telling officers that he killed his wife, 44-year-old Kristine Kirk, while she was on the phone with 911.

Richard's family was in court on Wednesday to support him. They declined comment because they were advised not to speak.

It happened around 9:30 p.m. on Monday in the 2100 block of South St. Paul Street. Law enforcement sources tell 9NEWS that Kristine told the 911 dispatcher her husband Richard Kirk may have eaten marijuana edibles and that he was hallucinating and scaring their three young children.

"I can't get necessarily into specifics about that, but we are looking at a marijuana aspect of this investigation to see if it did play a role in this particular crime," said Denver Police spokesperson Sonny Jackson.

A longtime friend of the Kirk family, who did not want to be identified, told 9NEWS Richard is a religious man, happy-go-lucky and very friendly, who is not known for being violent. The friend also said Kristine was an amazing mother and good friend. They are stunned by what happened. It is a shock shared by many in the neighborhood where the crime scene tape remains a stark reminder of what unfolded there....

Richard has a prior arrest in Douglas County for driving under the influence and careless driving. A police source told 9NEWS it did not appear cops had ever been called to the home before.

Neighbors say they are still coming to grips with what happened. "Just kind of shocking, and it's almost just incredible that something like this would happen," Coyne said.

Kristine was on the phone with 911 for 12 minutes before she was shot. Denver Police said that's not unusual because the call originally came in as non-life threatening, but they plan to look into the circumstances of that call to make sure it was handled properly.

Though I am not ready to jump to any conclusions about this bizarre story, if this sad matricide gets attributed to marijuana use it could certainly impact public perceptions about the pros and cons of marijuana reform.

UPDATE:  I just came across this AP story, headlined "Police: Denver man ate marijuana candy before fatally shooting his wife," which provides these additional details about this tragic story:

Authorities say a Denver man accused of killing his wife while she was on the phone with 911 ate marijuana-infused candy before he allegedly shot her.

According to search warrants released Thursday, 44-year-old Kristine Kirk told dispatchers her husband bought and ate the candy before he started hallucinating and frightening the couple's three children. Police say 47-year-old Richard Kirk also may have taken prescription pain medication before he began acting erratically.

It was not clear whether the pot influenced his behavior.

April 16, 2014 at 10:43 PM | Permalink

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Bizarre? With marijuana, expect the unexpected:

| [Range of] Effects of Marijuana |
LiveScience, 11/5/12
The National Institute on Drug Abuse says marijuana is the most commonly used illegal drug.
Marijuana can impair thinking, memory and learning for weeks after use. It produces a range of psychological and physical effects
that can be unpredictable at times. It can relieve pain, control nausea and increase appetite. Marijuana typically gives a high,
or feeling of well being, which is why it abused. But marijuana can also cause acute psychosis, or a temporary break with reality. Marijuana-induced psychosis
happens more often in new users or in people prone to mental illness.

It takes two to three hours after ingesting marijuana for effects to appear, and these may last slightly longer: up to three hours for smoking and up to
four hours if marijuana was eaten.
Smoking marijuana will cause psychological effects within 30 to 60 minutes as the psychoactive chemical THC is absorbed
into the blood through the lungs and circulated around the body.

• Scientists have identified more than 400 chemicals in marijuana. At least 66 compounds, called cannabinoids, are unique to marijuana.
• THC has been known to decrease pressure within the eyes, raise anxiety and cause paranoia.
• The proportion of THC to other cannabinoids varies by the cultivated strain, so the psychological effects of using marijuana can depend on the particular sample at hand.

| Why are the effects of marijuana so unpredictable?|
Science, 12 October 10
Alcohol is mostly predictable. When we drink a beer (or three), we usually have a pretty good sense of what it’s going to feel like.
We can anticipate the buzz, the slackening of self-control, the impaired motor movements and the increased mind-wandering.

But not all drugs are so predictable. Consider marijuana, which can trigger dramatically different symptoms depending on the strain and context.
But THC doesn’t work alone -- marijuana also contains cannabidiol, a compound associated with calm and relaxation.
The ratio of THC to cannabidiol seems to be the key variable: Skunk-type strains, for instance, contain a higher ratio of THC to cannabidiol than, say,
marijuana byproducts like hashish.
According to a paper in Neuropsychopharmacology, … in general, high levels of THC seem to be desired by marijuana users,
which helps explain why levels of THC have increased dramatically in the last few decades.
Now for the bad news: These popular skunk-strains (high in THC, low in cannabidiol) seem to be uniquely associated with memory loss.
That, at least, is the lesson of a recent paper in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

Posted by: Adamakis | Apr 17, 2014 8:51:26 AM

Lots of things that are legal now in a few cases cause some sort of harm. Marijuana is much less likely -- we know this from long experience of widespread use -- than many things of this happening.

But, there are some rare instances of the loads of times it is used (a recent comment suggests maybe use in food is an issue ... just like you now and then see someone dying from food poisoning or something?) where there are serious consequences. Likewise, criminalization can lead to some serious consequences, for various times very serious ones. A short time in lock-up in various cases results in attacks, medical problems, various serious consequences from having a criminal record etc.

So, let's have a bit of perspective. Why don't we list each time with these stories various accounts, e.g., of alcohol being life threatening? How did Prohibition work there?

Posted by: Joe | Apr 17, 2014 10:27:31 AM

And, to the degree marijuana is "attributed" here, yes, we have a long history of "reefer madness." I can't say from such a small sample size, but again, "edibles" might be an issue here.

Posted by: Joe | Apr 17, 2014 10:29:58 AM

Joe: "So, let's have a bit of perspective."

-- Yes, we know of Prohibition, and we know of alcohol intoxication.
Do you know of the incomparable unpredictability and hallucinogenic properties
of marijuana?

Are you able to allow the history of Prohibition and the effects of alcohol to inform your appraisal,
whilst yet separating the substances for proper evaluation?

If not, conflation and false equivalence will lead you to a confounded position.

Posted by: Adamakis | Apr 17, 2014 11:26:52 AM

"Reefer madness" is exactly what this sounds like. More than a hundred million people in this country alone have used marijuana illegally, but somehow the only stories of people going bonkers and killing themselves or someone else after consuming the drug have come out of the only state to implement full legalization.

What's interesting is that in the news story, "Law enforcement sources tell 9NEWS that Kristine told the 911 dispatcher her husband Richard Kirk MAY HAVE eaten marijuana edibles" (emphasis mine), while in the AP story, the warrant claims that "Kristine Kirk told dispatchers her husband bought and ate the candy". Of course, in the followup, "Police say 47-year-old Richard Kirk also MAY HAVE taken prescription pain medication" (again, emphasis mine).

Anyway, the only thing we know about this guy is that he (1) killed his wife and (2) may have taken a combination of drugs before he did it. Oh yeah, we also know he was religious.

Posted by: C.E. | Apr 19, 2014 9:51:38 PM

How many died last year from pills?
http://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/rxbrief/

http://www.theweedblog.com/dea-chief-faces-backlash-for-criticizing-obamas-marijuana-comments/

Posted by: ted mishler | Apr 23, 2014 12:48:08 PM

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