What is certain is that marijuana is the second most popular spirituous substance behind liquor in the United States.
Since the Obama era began, more people have smoked, vaped, eaten, and drunk marijuana than ever, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Based on a 2011 survey, an estimated 18.1 million people over age 12 reported consuming marijuana in the past month, and about 5 million consumed it almost daily — and that was four years ago.
Reports of direct harm definitively linked to marijuana, whether by overdose, the triggering of an extreme reaction, or through accidents, are minimal compared to the number of people using it. When the use of marijuana appears to have a connection to an act of violence or an accident, the news media and prohibitionist politicians trumpet the story because of the ongoing debate over legalization.
Yet when compared to incidents sparked by alcohol use, such incidents are rare.
Since adult-use marijuana laws passed in Colorado, Washington state, Oregon, Alaska, and Washington, D.C., millions of legal marijuana edibles have been consumed. Many tons of legal marijuana have been smoked. And, of course, countless tons have been consumed in recent years in states where pot remains illegal.
Yet manslaughter cases involving drivers impaired only by marijuana remain scarce, in part because marijuana doesn’t impair judgment as much as alcohol and other drugs. Cannabis overdoses are unheard of. Babies, toddlers, and adults who accidentally consume large amounts of THC — and do so in increasing numbers in Colorado and Arizona — always have recovered completely.
Those opposed to legalization, however, claim that people are dropping like flies from marijuana ingestion. For instance, Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk claimed falsely in a June op-ed that the deaths of dozens of children last year “resulted from” marijuana. Prohibitionists claim cannabis is causing more traffic collisions, suicides, and accidents at work and at home.
Of all their sensational claims, though, the most disturbing is that eating a tiny amount of cannabis can turn a loving husband into a wife-killer. They make this claim based on a single murder case: the slaying of Denver mom Kristine Kirk by her husband, Richard.
The case drew worldwide attention last year because of its connection to legal cannabis. Colorado was the first state to legalize marijuana for all adults 21 and older following its historic 2012 vote, and the first retail shops offering a range of marijuana products opened in January 2014.
The basic facts of the Kirk case, as laid out in court records, aren’t in dispute. On April 14, 2014, Kirk, now 49, bought the piece of “Karma Kandy Orange Ginger” with infused cannabis at one of the new marijuana stores in Denver. Three hours later, about 9:30 p.m., his wife told a 911 dispatcher that Richard appeared to be “hallucinating” and was “talking about the end of the world.”
Kristine Kirk, 44, related that her husband was acting “drunk, not violent” and was scaring their three young children. He asked her to get the household handgun and shoot him. When she refused, he entered the combination on a safe, pulled out the gun, put it to her temple and pulled the trigger. As she lay in a pool of blood, Kirk then told his 7-year-old son to kill him so “Dad and Mom could be together with God.”
He was arrested on suspicion of first-degree murder. When police put the “rambling” suspect in a squad car, Kirk allegedly said he “was the strongest man in the Church of Latter-day Saints” and that he had killed his wife. He hasn’t made any statements since.
In a September court motion, Kirk’s lawyer changed his plea from not guilty to not guilty by reason of insanity. Kirk’s defense is, officially, that legal cannabis made him kill.
The murder suspect hopes a jury buys his story.
Pot prohibitionists hope the public buys it, too – because when it comes to demonstrating the supposed harm of marijuana, the controversial murder of Kristine Kirk is one of the few examples they can cite.
County Attorney Polk mentions the case routinely as part of her ongoing jihad against a proposed legalization measure expected to be on the Arizona ballot next year.
Mitch Morrissey, Denver’s district attorney, is another anti-cannabis politician who has taken a public position against his state’s legalization experiment. In a recent interview with New Times, he points to Kirk as a prime example of how “the marijuana now on our streets . . . makes some people psychotic. They can become homicidal.”
Morrissey, like Polk, suggests the Kirk case shows why other states — like Arizona — should not go down the same green path as Colorado.
When confronted about this fact, the D.A. admits, “Well, he doesn’t have that much marijuana on board.”
Morrissey’s referring to Kirk’s toxicology test, which showed the presence of 2.3 nanograms of active THC, the psychoactive substance in marijuana. That’s less than half the state’s legal limit (5 nanograms) for driving.
Plus, Kirk may have had a motive for wanting to slay his spouse, according to a court motion filed in June by Morrissey’s office.
Although initial reports about the shooting didn’t bring up marital problems, the motion revealed the couple had been fighting over the previous months. Police had responded to a previous domestic incident at the home. A month before the shooting, Richard Kirk told a friend he needed to live apart from his wife for a while and had stopped his paychecks from automatic deposit in the couple’s joint account. The couple was behind on IRS payments and had $40,000 in credit card debt. Kristine had told a co-worker she was “scared” of her husband following a recent fight.
Financial and emotional stress contributed to Kirk’s “conscious decision to kill his wife and rebuts any anticipated defense that Defendant was not acting intentionally or knowingly at the time of the homicide,” the motion states.
So much for Morrissey’s example that pot can turn innocent people homicidal.
There are no other examples.