Back in March, we wrote about the death of Luke Goodman, an Oklahoma resident who killed himself in Keystone, reportedly after eating a marijuana edible.
Now, CBS4, the station that led the way on the Goodman story, has discovered that the coroner who analyzed the 2012 suicide of Daniel Juarez, an eighteen-year-old from Brighton, listed marijuana intoxication as one of the factors that caused him to take his life.
Juarez's THC level was measured at 38.2 nanograms, around eight times the (controversial) level the State of Colorado has established for marijuana intoxication.
He stabbed himself twenty times, with a wound to the chest proving fatal.
The thesis of the CBS4 piece, shared below, focuses on "the growing evidence that ingesting marijuana is causing some bad outcomes," as anchor Jim Benemann says in his introduction.
The text version of the story attempts to support this argument with mentions of the Goodman case, as well as high-profile 2014 incidents involving Levy Thamba Pongi, a Wyoming college student who fell to his death from a hotel balcony after eating a pot edible, and Richard Kirk, who had eaten an edible before killing his wife, Kristine Kirk, while she was on the phone with a 911 operator.
The new item notes two other deaths in addition to Juarez's. The first involved Tron Dohse, 26, who fell to his death in 2012 after attempting to climb into his upper-floor Thornton apartment while stoned.
His THC level at the time of his death was listed as 27.3 nanograms.
Also cited is the 2007 death by suicide of Boulder's Brant Clark, a seventeen-year-old whose mom says he suffered a psychotic break after smoking an excessive amount of marijuana three weeks before his death.
His suicide note read in part: "Sorry for what I have done I wasn’t thinking the night I smoked myself out."
Obviously, the overwhelming majority of people who smoke or consume marijuana don't react to the substance in these kinds of ways, or else we'd have heard about hundreds, if not thousands, of similar scenarios over the course of recent years, as opposed to a small handful of cases scattered over nearly a decade.
And at first blush, the Dohse incident seems more about intoxication than it does about a lethal quality in marijuana. Every day, people who've consumed too much alcohol lose their lives, either behind the wheel or in other ways related to their impairment.
The Clark case is stronger, given that the teen was hospitalized twice in the days after his experience with marijuana, with hospital records documenting what he described as "paranoia" he couldn't shake.
As for Juarez, police reports obtained by CBS4 say he and a friend were smoking when he decided “he didn’t want anymore because he was too high."
Then, after declaring, "I just had an epiphany," Juarez reportedly stripped off most of his clothing, ran into a nearby apartment, grabbed a knife and plunged it into his body over and over again.
Other voices in the CBS4 report include Dr. Chris Colwell, Chief of Emergency Medicine at Denver Health Medical Center, who talks about seeing patients who have to be restrained in order not to harm themselves or others after having negative reactions to cannabis consumption.
Offered far less time on-screen is Marijuana Policy Project communication director and Amendment 64 advocate Mason Tvert.
He's given the opportunity to deliver a single line: "“There is no evidence that using marijuana makes you want to kill yourself."
Indeed, incidents like the ones outlined by CBS4 are exceedingly rare.
Deaths associated with other drugs, including those obtained via prescription, are far more numerous — and they tend to get a lot less attention than those associated with marijuana, which remains a favorite subject of the local and national news media well over a year after limited recreational cannabis sales became legal in Colorado.
That doesn't lessen the heartbreak felt by those who lost their lives in the ways recounted in this post. We offer our condolences to their friends, families and relatives.
But thus far, linking marijuana and tragedy in ways that were common during the bad old days of the War on Drugs isn't supported by the untold millions of people who have smoked pot or eaten an edible and lived to tell the tale.
Here's the CBS4 report.
Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.