It’s a tricky question to answer because everyone reacts to substances differently. There are studies around marijuana that prove the detrimental effects of the plant, like a study that says teens who smoke pot are 60% less likely to graduate high school. Well, who cares? Two of the most successful people I know not only smoked pot in high school but also graduated early with a GED. The media spins things however they need to, many statistics around marijuana are aimed to instill fear in the general public. I bet that will change once the government has their hands firmly clasped on the marijuana industry.
In March 2014, in Colorado, a college student, Levy Thamba ingested a full weed cookie that consisted of about six servings; ignoring the suggested one serving. That night, Thamba also committed suicide by jumping off of his hotel balcony. Toxicology reports, of course, revealed that he was under the influence of marijuana. His death was blamed on marijuana. This tragedy occurred not even two years after marijuana was legalized in Colorado.
It was reported that Thamba had no previous history of mental illness or drug addiction. Ask anyone that has had mental health issues, it becomes something that they ignore, avoid seeking consultation for, and learn to hide. I don’t mean disrespect, but I cannot agree that a weed cookie could be responsible for suicide. I do believe that whatever caused Samba to act on his suicidal thoughts was an internal problem; stress, depression, anxiety. I think that these feelings were amplified by the marijuana cookie, but I do not believe that the cookie is to blame.
Suicide comes with an implication that the person was suffering. Whether you are sober or under the influence of marijuana or alcohol, individuals who are 100% fulfilled and operating with a healthy, balanced psyche, don’t typically commit suicide. So, while I acknowledge that mind altering substances can contribute to suicide, I reject that they are the source.
Even Thamba himself said his upset feelings were “Not because of the weed,” according to his friend Anna Jakaovljeveic. So why is it even important to list it as the chief contributing factor in his death? Protocol, sure, but the media using this as evidence of the dangers of marijuana is a reach.
Is blaming marijuana (or other substances) just a way of making families feel better about the fact that their loved one committed suicide? I honestly see suicide as a tragedy, but if someone chooses to commit suicide, why are we blaming their death on marijuana? The media could have used this opportunity to list suicide prevention resources, but they targeted marijuana.
We might never know the truth behind Thamba’s death; whether he was depressed and having suicidal thoughts previous to his marijuana cookie or if the cookie triggered these thoughts out of thin air. Still, my beliefs hold firm, the chief contributing factor to his suicide would have to be his mental health.
Overall, I’m bothered by the idea of demonizing marijuana, and I think we need to look at this case with care especially since Prop 64 has passed in California. With the introduction of recreational dispensaries to our communities, it’s possible that we will see a rise in marijuana-related injuries, deaths, and accidents. To protect access to marijuana, it’s important to be educated on how different types of cannabis will affect you and to be responsible. Do pay attention to suggested serving sizes, don’t risk driving, and do keep an open line of communication with your friends.