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My Son’s Killer

My son’s suicide note explained the cause of his death. “I want to die. My soul is already dead. Marijuana killed my soul + ruined my brain.”

My first reaction was: What? Marijuana isn’t a physical addiction, just a little psychological dependence. My research since has revealed I was far from the truth. Marijuana is highly addictive. The essence of addiction and dependence is highly physical. Almost 1 in 3 users of marijuana exhibit symptoms of Substance Use Disorder. I learned later that my 31 year old son had been diagnosed with Severe Cannabis Use Disorder.

My son’s wallet contained his Medical Marijuana Card and a dispensary loyalty card indicating his numerous purchases and his progress toward earning his free 1/8 ounce. Also had the address of the store he frequented. So I visited the manager there. I told her I want her to know my son’s story so she can help prevent another death like his by recognizing someone in trouble with their addiction.

She gave me her opinion that marijuana is not addictive.

I asked her to notice any healthy young person buying the allowed limit of 2 ½ ounces every 14 days which I calculate is about 10 joints per day, suggesting there could be some diversion or dependence going on. She told me I am wrong about that; their pre-rolled joints are a full gram so they are only getting 5 joints per day. Okay.

Only 5 that are twice as big as I would have recognized from the 70’s. A sign in their receptionist’s window indicated they have products with 90% THC, the psychoactive element of pot.

In the 70’s THC content was in the very low single digits.  

She discussed with me the “facts” in her mind; her exact words “Marijuana has never been related to a death.” I asked her to look at my son’s suicide note that clearly related his death to marijuana. I asked her to look at his death certificate, one no parent ever wants to see with the cause of death: Suicide.  I offered her copies to share with her “patients” to help prevent another death. She declined my offer.

She asked me if there was another explanation for my son’s death, another drug in the coroner’s report. No, there were no other drugs.

She pointed out the decor in the dispensary. Giant copies of checks depicting numerous donations they have made to local organizations, prominently a children’s hospital. I suggested she consider making donations to organizations that provide education to youth to prevent substance use at the early age that is so very susceptible to substance use disorders. She said that is an interesting idea.

Then I left because I know a business is not likely to help prevent use of its product by the population that will be its best customers in the future. Then I left because I am sickened by this industry that refuses to acknowledge the known risks of its product. I left because this woman made it clear to me that she will continue to sell her product which is deadly to some without feeling responsibility for her customers exhibiting signs of abuse.

I left because my focus and my aim to save a life like my son’s is wasted on anyone in this industry. Marijuana is much like the tobacco industry of the past that refused to acknowledge known risks in their product.

I left because I recognize my target audience now is US.

By us I mean the public in general. Polls say 50% of voters think it will be OK to fully legalize use of marijuana. Yet only 10% or so are current users of the product.  Clearly there are many of us who do not know true facts about the drug.

To continue my mission taking my son’s message to as many people as I can find, those who will care, those who need to be educated about today’s potent marijuana. Then I left to spend my time with those who do care about protecting youth.

Sally Schindel, Andy’s Mom

Prescott, AZ

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