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Murder, Illnesses Prompt Second Look at Recreational Marijuana Law in Colorado

After months of keeping their hands off implementation of Colorado’s voter-approved initiative for recreational marijuana, the state’s political establishment may be having some second thoughts.

Two bills filed late in the Colorado Legislature appear to be on a fast track to put the first real limits on recreational marijuana since voters passed Amendment 64 in 2012, making recreational pot sales since Jan. 1, 2014, legal for anyone age 21 or older.

On Tuesday, Dr. Michael Distefano testified that Colorado Children’s Hospital has treated seven juveniles for acute illnesses stemming from ingesting edible forms of marijuana since the law went into effect.

And, on Monday night, before Distefano appeared before the House Committee on Health, Insurance, and Environment on two bills to rein in recreational marijuana, a mother of three from Denver on the phone with a 911 operator about the hallucinations being experienced by her husband was killed when he shot her in the head.

Dead is 44-year old Kristine A. Kirk. Her husband, Richard Kirk, 47, is being held without bond on a charge of first-degree murder. He volunteered his guilt while in custody, but before police began interrogating him. Denver Police are investigating whether Kirk smoked or ingested an edible form of marijuana. The 911 call was originally thought to be a domestic disturbance, and the dispatcher was told that the only gun in the home was kept in a safe. Officers arrived just ahead of the shooting.

With just three weeks before its scheduled adjournment, such events appear to be pushing the Colorado Legislature to make changes to the state’s marijuana laws in at least two important areas.

First, it appears to be ready to impose limits on the concentrations of marijuana. Amendment 64 permits Colorado residents to purchase one ounce of marijuana, but it makes no distinction between one ounce of just the leafy green plant or one ounce of a concentrated form such as the hash oil used in many edible forms of the drug. Second, lawmakers want to put more restrictions on the edible forms, including eliminating items that mimic popular cookies and candies and might appear good for marketing to children.

Amendment 64 advocates insist there is no toxic level for marijuana, and they are expected to push back hard on the two bills that have little time to run all legislative hurdles and still make it to the governor’s desk this year.

Without changes to the law, Colorado’s edible marijuana products are subject only to regulation by the Department of Revenue’s pot unit but not by public health officials, whose only role is to consult when asked.

State Rep. Frank McNulty (R-Highlands Ranch) says that achieving equivalences between marijuana from plants with the concentrates used in edibles will probably cost the state at least $100,000 to implement, but that every passing day is giving lawmakers reasons why some tightening is necessary.

The reports of edible marijuana making children sick and possibly playing a role in Kristine Kirk’s murder coincides with a new study showing that casual marijuana use can cause changes in the brain. Published in the Journal of Neuroscience, a 10-page report on the study says that brain alterations occur in young adults using marijuana before any dependence develops.

The report’s author, Dr. Hans Breiter of Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and Massachusetts General Hospital, said that longer-term studies are needed to see if brain changes cause any symptoms over time.

Meanwhile, this year’s “4/20” event in Denver on April 19 and 20 won’t be a protest, but a festival at the Civic Center expected to draw 80,000 people each day. Organizers say they are spending $300,000 on the two-day event. Festival-goers will be warned that cannabis cannot be used in public, and police citations for public consumption are likely.

© Food Safety News
  • Kathleen

    That story of the women is terrible, no doubt about that. And marijuana does alter mental status, although I’m not convinced that it would in a violent way, but niether here nor there. How many alcohol related deaths and domestic abuse calls have there been this year in contrast to those involving Marijuana? It just isn’t a valid story unless the issue is put into perspective. I’m not supporting or not supporting, just curious if this is out of the norm.

    • Joe Blow

      Valid point Kathleen in comparing this to alcohol related deaths.

    • kiki

      Honestly, I am a former marijuana consumer and I can tell you that marijuana enhances whatever you are feeling at that moment in time. It can be a wonderful drug, but only if you know how to control it, manage your emotions, and channel your energy in positive ways. I have found that people who struggle with mental illness are more susceptible to becoming violent when under the influence of marijuana. For example, I once screamed at a boy for publicly humiliating me on a bus full of peers. I had never been so angry in my entire life. I struggle with bipolar disorder and though I did not hurt or attempt to hurt the boy, I will admit that being “high” at that moment in time definitely enhanced my anger and frustration. Normally, my “highs” consisted of me being friendly and engaging in positive, philosophical conversations with people. This was unlike me. I would have never acted that way had I not been under the influence of marijuana. The problem with marijuana is that unlike alcohol, which lowers your inhibitions yet causes you to stumble and be clumsy, it makes you stronger. I know this because I used to love going to the gym high as the drug is a muscle relaxant (pain medication, remember?) and you are able to push yourself more because you don’t feel strains or cold weather even if you are wearing shorts in thirty degree weather. I used to be a part of NORML, which is an organization devoted to spreading positive news about marijuana in an attempt to change lawmakers’ minds. I now am more hesitant about the drug because of this news article and my own personal experience.

      • LouWho

        But did you hallucinate on it? Because that is not something i’ve heard of unless the person consumes high amounts of THC and has a serious mental disorder that would allow for augmented perception in normal circumstances.
        And it sounds like – just like everything else – it requires personal responsibility and control in the matter.

        • kiki

          I completely agree with you on the personal responsibility and control part. I did not hallucinate on it one bit, but I do worry that other people who suffer from similar mental illnesses may experience the same effects.

        • grifty

          I believe it is possible..though difficult to achieve.

          Hallucinations aren’t exactly what you’d expect either. But do we know the effect when combined with prevalent, yet un-diagnosed mental illness?

      • donthate participate

        “marijuana enhances whatever you are feeling at that moment in time”
        It’s actually the opposite for most people.
        “I have found that people who struggle with mental illness are more
        susceptible to becoming violent when under the influence of marijuana.”
        That’s !@#ing moronic.. They were violent because they
        didn’t consume enough marijuana!
        “For example, I once screamed at a boy for publicly humiliating me on a
        bus full of peers. I had never been so angry in my entire life. I
        struggle with bipolar disorder and though I did not hurt or attempt to
        hurt the boy, I will admit that being “high” at that moment in time
        definitely enhanced my anger and frustration.”
        Yeah, blame the pot for your bipolar outbursts

        • disqus_l9nAfjrD0K

          “I would have never acted that way had I not been under the influence of marijuana.”
          ^^ This indicates that the OP – despite having bipolar disorder – does not often have psychotic breakdowns like the one described. Yet you still say “outbursts”, as though the OP had/has many.

          Though you may disagree(being that both mine and the OP’s accounts are purely anecdotal), I completely agree with the OP when she/he states that marijuana intensifies emotions. I’m a little baked right now myself and I can honestly say that I wouldn’t have had any inclination at all to respond to your comment were I sober. The other day I was high, and I got uncharacteristically upset when I felt that the server at the restaurant that I was eating at was bullshitting me. I thought that there was an item on the menu that there wasn’t, and I was convinced that rather than telling me the truth that they were out of that item, she had instead decided to give me a different order from the menu. Naturally, I was dead wrong(seeing as how I was hopped up on a ton of THC and caffeine at the time). I’m often told by friends that I’m typically pretty emotionless(and I would have to agree), so it’s not surprising that my anger wasn’t too severe. But I would imagine that for individuals with things like bipolar disorder – or even for neurotypical individuals – it could be incredibly difficult to exercise emotional control.

          I’ll just ignore your second point and interpret it as a joke. Obviously if they had enough Marijuana to incapacitate them then they wouldn’t be violent. They’d be passed out on the couch instead.

    • grifty

      I’d be really interested to know (and we probably never will) if the legalization actually impacted use in any way. It was already easy to get, plentiful and comparable in price.

      Everything can be consumed to the point where it is a problem. Marijuana is not know for causing violence….but maybe those people were also consuming something like (booze?).

      As far as how many alcohol related deaths, for a good comparison we’d probably have to compare a day of alcohol deaths to a year of marijuana ones. Alcohol is some dangerous crap.

  • A Anon

    hmm, what about all the overdoses and deaths caused by children getting their hands on their parents pharmaceutical medicine? Or alot of these active shooters like columbine were on prescription or just stopped taking prescription drugs before the shootings… oh wait those are legal.

  • vsqh

    Propaganda aka Bull shit

  • http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/big_lebowski/ Jackie Treehorn

    Every 44 hours, a college student in this country dies from alcohol poisoning, That’s right, they overdose on something they buy from the liquor store. Let’s compare statistics between substances. More perspective and critical thinking skills are sorely needed in this country.

  • Sugmahdik

    This is propaganda, a filthy attempt to demonize the plant which the voters of Colorado have approved for legal consumption. It’s the anti marijuana advocates attempt to say “see we told you” when all of this sad news could of been prevented with better parenting and better knowledge of the situation instead of finding the scape goat. Marajuiana will be legalized nation wide in less then 15 years regaurdless of the attempts of the “refer madness generation”. So stop prolonging a process that keeps innocent people out of jail.

  • Phil

    propaganda article right here. How many alcohol related deaths and domestic abuse calls have there been this year in contrast to those involving Marijuana?

  • AntonX2

    Regarding the limited, 40-person “study” reported in this saying people’s brains changed after smoking a little weed … everyone come back to Statistics class with me … what is the #1 rule of statistics?

    Correlation does not imply causation.

    Also, the “study” was funded in part by the DEA. You know, Drug Enforcement Agency. You think they’d fund a study finding that marijuana is alright? I don’t think so.

    • disqus_l9nAfjrD0K

      Come on now. Everything that you do changes your brain. If that weren’t the case, how would you ever possibly learn anything? New inputs create new memories and new thoughts. New memories and new thoughts shape not just our ability to learn, but also every new thing about us. It’s called “neuroplasticity”. It’s exactly the same thing with using marijuana. The new experiences, new ways of thought, and new sensations all change the way your brain works – especially if you’re a habitual user. The question is not “Does change occur?” but rather “What changes occur and how do they affect normal day-to-day function?” This is a question that I would have been far more interested in seeing answered than the question that the study itself focused on. Studies such as this one that investigate brain changes can be incredibly misleading because of how ignorant scientists really are of the brain. We know so little about the brain that almost all that can be definitively said is that “change occurs” with marijuana use, not precisely what kind of change occurs. In this respect, I also think that you are right to question the motivations of the study. In most of these studies – as you point out – the chain of command often overrides any real attempt to perform legitimate and insightful experiments.

      However, while you’re right that correlation does not necessarily imply causation, correlation can often offer supporting evidence of causation (given other, equally strong pieces of supporting evidence). If physicists had noticed the strong correlation between the predictions of Quantum Mechanics and their experimental observations and said “Correlation does not imply causation!” then they never would have accepted Quantum Mechanics and they never would have made predictions about cosmic background radiation, the big bang, the Higgs Boson, and a number of other then theoretical ideas that were supported by Quantum Mechanics. While my comparison is a bit exaggerated, my point stands. The argument that “correlation does not imply causation” – while true – is a bit pedantic and has the potential to be dangerously misleading.

  • Cowicide

    So when people take aspirin and coincidentally have psychotic breaks, are the cops going to focus on the hazards of aspirin and get that parroted by the idiots on local TV news as well?

    Aspirin, by the way, causes hundreds of deaths each year.

    Marijuana is supposed to be a distraction from the slow police response time.

    I should mention I don’t necessarily blame the police for it. They are underfunded and understaffed. If marijuana had been legalized and taxed a long time ago, we’d have much more money available for the police by now for a host of reasons.

    So, if we really want someone to blame for the slow police response we can look dead in the eyes of those who’ve been in our way for marijuana legalization all these years.

    But, yeah… marijuana… evil… bad.. scary… while alcohol… fun… macho… mainstream…

    • Ignorant & Scared

      You need a bud light!

      • Cowicide

        Ha, I think I’ll have a Sol with a twist of lime instead.

  • Mike Bob

    Juveniles treated at a children’s hospital? The legal age is 21 for a reason. For any dumbass teenagers who think its a good idea to just eat a bunch of edibles for their first time, you deserve to be escorted to the hopsital. Kids shouldn’t be ingesting any sort of THC in the first place, stupid teenagers only do it because its “cool” anyways…

    • ZQ

      Psych 101 all teens are crazy.They hopefully grow out of it in their early 20′s

  • Frank

    My dad has been smoking marijuana for over 40 years. And we’re talking DAILY. He has raised a great family, holds down his job, is extremely responsible, and is never violent. I’ve been around marijuana smokers my whole life and never heard of someone flipping out on it. People who have flipped out (as mentioned in another comment) also have brain disorders, such as bi-polar disorder. In any case, marijuana by itself doesn’t make you more susceptible to violent acts. And I’ve never heard of anyone hallucinating on it. It’s rediculous how people ignore all the problems associated with alcohol, yet take some freak occurrences and call into question if marijuana should be legal.
    Criminalize marijuana!! It’s dangerous!! Now, lets go get a drink or two…

  • http://churchofsmoke.org/ Jose

    Looks like the war on marijuana legalization is in full swing with anti-Jew pamphlets, war mongering, troop mobilization, and false studies.

  • IgglePhreak

    People high on pot are so smart and alert.

  • PeaceLove

    WTF? Why on earth would you cite the murder in an article about cannabis even though you admit you have *zero evidence* that cannabis was involved? “Police are investigating whether Kirk smoked or investigated an edible form of marijuana.” Are they also investigating whether he was sniffing glue? Coming off anti-depressants? Just plain psychotic?

    This article is 100% propaganda. Cannabis has a perfect safety record, with zero deaths in 10,000 years. Ask any cop if they have EVER seen a domestic disturbance involving someone under the influence of cannabis only. They never do.

    Shame on you.

    • irritated with ignorance

      I am a victim of domestic abuse from someone only high on cannabis with no known mental illness and lead a successful life as an upstanding member of society. When high and challenged or perceived threatened he became very confrontational. So just because you have never met anyone who acts like this does not mean they aren’t out there. I personally don’t know anyone who is abusive when they drink alcohol but I know they exist. So be careful when you make blanket comments.
      And I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure the wife said he ate pot candy. They have to say Alleged or investigating for legal purposes.

      • stfu

        “I am a victim of domestic abuse from someone only high on cannabis with
        no known mental illness and lead a successful life as an upstanding
        member of society. When high and challenged or perceived threatened he
        became very confrontational. So just because you have never met anyone
        who acts like this does not mean they aren’t out there. I personally
        don’t know anyone who is abusive when they drink alcohol”
        Fact: The number of domestic violence cases involving alcohol is grossly higher than those involving cannabis. Your above mentioned partner is a pussy. Go ahead, make excuses, blame the pot. & who cares if the wife said he ate pot candy!! He probably had more than one substance in his system. Herb doesn’t make people murderous! He likely was already a psycho killer. Wait, wait… Blame the pot.

      • mary

        If u have a mentai illness im sure the prescription drugs they take also say do not mix with anything so since some people who obviously know sum wrong with them who abusemmarijuana shouldnt mean punish everyone else

    • frustrated with ignorance
  • Kathryn

    What this article has made very apparent to me is this: Why was the Amendment 64 for legalization of pot so abruptly implemented? It seems like lawmakers didn’t think about the consequences and many loopholes of the amendment! Seems like a law with spotty coverage. Of course there needs to be a distinction regarding the form, concentration, and amount of pot which can be obtained at one time! And guidelines about marijuana used to produce edible snacks, needs a whole set of regulations in conjunction with FDA. I don’t have a problem with pot being legal, it just needs to be done in an appropriate way, so that limits are clear, there’s no advertisement to kids under 21. Glad to hear there’s some new research coming to the surface as well.

    • J T

      Tell me kathryn, why do we “of course” need controls over this perfectly harmless substance? Do we “of course” also need controls on how much sugar can be purchased at one time?

  • Brian Kelly B Bizzle

    There is absolutely no doubt now that the majority of Americans want to completely legalize marijuana nationwide. Our numbers grow on a daily basis.

    The prohibitionist view on marijuana is the viewpoint of a minority of Americans.. It is based upon decades of lies and propaganda.

    Each and every tired old lie they have propagated has been thoroughly proven false by both science and society.

    Their tired old rhetoric no longer holds any validity. The majority of Americans have seen through the sham of marijuana prohibition in this day and age. The number of prohibitionists left shrinks on a daily basis.

    With their credibility shattered, and their not so hidden agendas visible to a much wiser public, what’s left for a marijuana prohibitionist to do?

    Maybe, just come to terms with the fact that Marijuana Legalization Nationwide is an inevitable reality that’s approaching much sooner than prohibitionists think, and there is nothing they can do to stop it!

    Legalize Nationwide!…and Support All Marijuana Legalization Efforts!

  • ZQ

    Three, out of the top five most addictive and extremely harmful drugs, remain legal. Alcohol which is the cause of more automobile fatalities than any other drug people use. It is also the number one drug that fills hospitals up and AA meetings the judge sends you too kicking and screaming.. 2) nicotine plus dozens of other carcinogens they put in cigarettes will guarantee you and your loved ones will take years off your life as well as the people you smoke around, especially babys who cuddle and breathe in the stink from your clothes. Then finally the caffeine fix.
    The other two would be crack and heroin.

  • http://feed.mikle.com/ Tim Higgins

    sad story – blamed on weed which was not the real cause of this sad situation.

  • Elminster

    Media and their twist on events, just to further the reporter or newsroom staffs support of their local law enforcements political agenda… just a few months ago they would have used this story to attack gun control proponents. Instead of something more logical such as gun control- they are trying to sell us the “marijuana is a dangerous drug that causes you to go out of your head and kill your family” angle. Sad truth is some people are really going to buy this Anslinger propaganda crap.
    Unfortunately- now, anything that happens in Colorado from the traffic jams, mass murders or even the weather is going to be blamed on weed. Every chance- certain politically biased media outlets get the opportunity, they will use this angle to strike out against legalization.

  • J T

    They were never at war on marijuana, or drugs even. They have been fighting a for-profit mercenary war on freedom. They are fighting for their own power and their own profits and their own control and their own fascism. They were never trying to stop drugs or drug-users, because they are where all their money comes from!

  • what

    I heard someone once got sick drinking alcohol. Have any of you heard of this?

    • ZQ

      I just fell off my chair. Great post.

  • ManCome

    I am an old lady and you can not consume more weed than me. Never hallucinated enough to wanna kill. Maybe kill a brownie but kill a human, never.

  • http://www.cyberspace.com What’s the frequency, Kenneth?

    Dude was on prescription drugs. By the way, crime is DOWN since its retail sale.

  • michael

    Lots of people were waiting for something bad to happen so they could say, “see?” But millions of people have been doing this for literally generations without anything like this ever happening to the pot user or to any other pot user they knew. Americans love prohibitions, it’s our answer to everything. But prohibition failed for alcohol and it failed for marijuana. If the neo-prohibitionists get their way and send pot laws back to the dark days, millions of people will continue to do it without skipping a beat. They’ll just go back to dealing with criminals. How many lives does THAT ruin?

    • WidePerspectives

      So you mean just like firearms? Used to protect the lives of generations of people and tainted recently by the heinous actions of a few mentally ill. Welcome to the club.

  • Herers Angels

    The Afghanis were not innocent.

    • Keegan

      so all of the Afghans killed in that war were guilty?

    • Adam Marin

      Terrorist arent innocent butshit who is?

  • ZQ

    It has been around for thousands of years. I remember visiting a friend in the hospital after very painful surgery decades ago. They had a veranda / porch up on the 10th floor of an unnamed Boston Hospital. The nurses were aware of several patients using the stuff in cookies brownies or whatever. The attending said awesome!! Just don’t give them pain medication that they could get addicted to. Plus everyone was pleasant. No stress. The side effects during post op and rehab were minimal. Patients healed quicker. No pneumonia or blood clots from being immobile. New England Journal Of Medicine should have an article on it.

  • craigzimmerman12

    Hollywood is good at portraying Marijuana users as funny and harmless, but the truth is not so pleasant.

  • WidePerspectives

    What a sad story, but why isn’t anyone blaming the gun? Why no calls for more gun restrictions? Oh that’s right… It’s because your beloved mind altering drug that likely contributed to this heinous crime is coming under attack. In every other instance it’s about the gun UNTIL it involves your cute THC infused gummy bears and colored glass bongs. Put the bong down, breath in the Colorado mountain air, that should be enough to get your spirit lifted.

  • WidePerspectives

    Response to Gun Control Propaganda from Colorado

    This type of Gun Control War rhetoric is exactly why firearms should stay legal and the Gun Control Nazi’s should get slapped for plugging Gun Control propaganda. Here
    are the problems with this Gun Control NAZI BS.

    On Tuesday, more than 4/5s of the Colorado Sheriffs testified that gun laws will do nothing to prevent further firearm related violence.

    Firearm related violence sounds impressive until you find out it includes: suicide, drug relate violence, mental illness, and chronic abusers of mind altering chemicals. I fail to see where this is news.

    The next scare in this article addresses a man that killed his wife while hallucinating. While tragic, firearms are safe until put into the hands of someone hallucinating on mind altering substances often times pharmaceuticals associated with severe pain, pharmaceuticals associated with mental disorders, and black market drugs
    like mushrooms and LSD. Marijuana may or may not be on the list depending on the individuals reaction to the drug, evidence indicates that MJ infused edibles were in the household where the crime occurred.

    Conclusion: Firearms have been legally used in Colorado over a billion times since the 1700s . All we have to show that firearms might not be perfectly safe is a few incidents where mentally unstable individuals, drug induced individuals or criminals have used the guns to harm and kill others.

    As far as the kids who have been shot, BE MORE CAREFUL ABOUT WHAT YOU TEACH AND HOW YOU RAISE YOUR KIDS WHEN YOU GET STONED. OR BETTER YET DON’T GET STONED, GET YOUR FAMILY ACTIVE IN YOUR COMMUNITY, BREATH THE MOUNTAIN AIR AND PARENT BY EXAMPLE.

    • bean420

      did they list all the potential prescription drugs in the house too? No? Just the ones that can drum up some google hits? Oh, ok then. Go drink your Kool Aid.

      • WidePerspectives

        Did they list all the potential legal guns in the house too? No? Just the ones that can drum up some Google hits? Oh, ok then. Go drink your Kool Aid.

  • Bog

    What about Vietnam when the government experimented with the effects of mj on soldiers.

  • Suzanne Ganote

    This article is misleading, because it does not say the guy who killed his wife was hallucinating because or after he consumed cannabis, it is saying the police are questioning whether or not there is a link. Not responsible journalism to link murder in the headline just because the police are questioning whether or not a link exists.

  • bean420

    I’m pretty sure that if marijuana was causing so many problems before legalization, it would have been noted, as testing for it posthumously is not a new standard, and that these problems, if they were legitimate public safety concerns, would have been the ace in the hole for the drug war. This idea that its mere presence should invoke fear as to its malicious intent is a fear mongering technique for which way too many fall.

  • mark

    Here we go again. Why is it when something good and rational gets voted in. Some ass has to go and ruin it for all the law biding pot smokers.