First Lawsuit of Its Kind Blames Marijuana for Murder

By | May 13, 2016

Reefer Madness (1936) Reefer Madness (1936)

The Burning Question (1936), alternate title for Reefer Madness The Burning Question (1936), alternate title for Reefer Madness

It must be time to get out that old copy of Reefer Madness and watch it again. I’ve forgotten that marijuana has the ability to turn people into crazed killers.

The family of a Denver woman whose husband killed her after eating marijuana-infused taffy has sued the manufacturer who made the candy and the retailer who sold it. The Denver Post says the case “appears to be the country’s first wrongful-death lawsuit against the recreational marijuana industry,” and it surely won’t be the last. But any lawsuit that blames marijuana for murder faces steep obstacles because causation is virtually impossible to prove when a cannabis consumer does something that cannabis consumers almost never do.

Kristine Kirk, a 44-year-old mother of three, died on April 14, 2014, after her husband, Richard, shot her in the head. He had been behaving oddly, jumping in and out of windows and raving about the end of the world, after eating a few bites of Karma Kandy Orange Ginger taffy that he bought that evening at Nutritional Elements, a marijuana store on South Colorado Boulevard in Denver. The lawsuit, which was filed by Kristine’s parents and sister on behalf of her three sons, argues that Nutritional Elements and Gaia’s Garden, which made the candy, failed to adequately warn Richard about the hazards of consuming too much.

According to Richard Kirk’s public defender (who has since been replaced by a private attorney), the clerk at Nutritional Elements, after learning that Kirk was an inexperienced user, did caution him against taking too large a dose, and Kirk ate more than recommended. It’s not clear exactly how much. The entire taffy contained 100 milligrams of THC, which state regulators count as 10 doses. But Kirk did not eat the whole thing, and when his blood was tested after the murder the THC concentration was just 2.3 nanograms per milliliter, less than half the level that is presumed to impair drivers under state law (but which may not in fact indicate impairment, especially in regular users). Assuming Kirk was an infrequent cannabis consumer, it is still possible that he ingested enough THC to have an unpleasant experience. But bad trips rarely end in homicide.

Read the full story at Reason magazine.


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