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Emily Bauer and Synthetic Marijuana Deaths

Since 2007, tens of thousands of people have smoked synthetic marijuana — many of them teenagers –resulting in statistically zero synthetic marijuana deaths, despite sensational headlines to the contrary.

It’s legal in most states and for sale everywhere online. The most common side effects of synthetic marijuana are rapid heartbeat, agitation, drowsiness, vomiting, hallucinations and nausea.

Of all those thousands and thousands of users, four people have died. The four are Lamar JackNicholasKelvin Melton, and Steven Valdez. You will notice when reading the reports that synthetic mj is assumed to be the cause. And since there is some discrepancy about whether or not synthetic mj can even be detected in the blood stream, we are looking at a whole ‘nother level of assumption.

Not to minimize their passing, but four deaths among tens of thousands of users is a statistical zero. Why the hysteria?

Several suicides have been blamed on synthetic mj, but those details are sketchy as well. No one can say with any certainty (or they would have) whether synthetic marijuana was the cause of death, a contributing factor or simply a circumstance of the event. It is blamed, nonetheless.

Several users have been injured or killed in car crashes, falls and other accidents. Even if toxicology reports can’t detect it, if the victim is known to have used synthetic marijuana, it’s blamed for these deaths as well.

Meanwhile, thousands of people die every year in all manner of homicides, suicides and accidents after consuming alcohol… yet we don’t ban it.

The two most recent tragedies blamed on synthetic weed involve Chase Burnett and Emily Bauer.

Chase Burnett

Chase drowned in a hot tub. Synthetic marijuana was found in his system (although, again, there are conflicting reports about whether or not tests can actually detect it), and his parents said they found some of the product near the hot tub. No other drugs or alcohol were found. His death is blamed on synthetic marijuana, and the state of Georgia immediately banned it.

But synthetic marijuana didn’t kill Chase. He drowned. If he had been smoking synthetic marijuana and not been in a hot tub, everything else being equal, he would still be alive.

It will probably come as no surprise that drowning is the number one cause of injury and death when using a hot tub. But did you know that an American drowns nearly every day in a bathtub, hot tub or spa? Most of those victims have been using a drug or alcohol.

Why didn’t Georgia ban hot tubs?

Hot water makes you sleepy. Add a little depressant (i.e. drugs and/or alcohol) to the formula and the results are often disastrous. One public health official in Seattle stated that “in some years as many as 70 percent of all adult drownings in tubs and pools investigated by his department involved consumption of alcohol.”

Why isn’t alcohol blamed and banned? Or any of the other drugs that made people so sleepy in a hot tub, they drowned? Every single week, a child under five dies in a backyard pool. Why aren’t we banning backyard pools?

Because terrible accidents happen.

I understand why Chase’s family would like to blame synthetic mj, but why is everyone else? The facts are crystal clear: Chase drowned. If he hadn’t been under the effect of a drug, he might not have fallen asleep, but the drug did not kill him. Chase did something thousands of people all over the world have done before him and survived. Unfortunately, he fell asleep.

Two years ago, a friend of mine’s 16yo son died in a car accident after partying all night on the beach. It was a local tragedy of monstrous proportions, as it sounds like Chase’s death was. We lived in a small town, the son was very popular, we love his mom and dad. It was a terrible, terrible accident.

As tragic as that was, we didn’t ban alcohol or SUVs. We didn’t ban partying on the beach. Didn’t raise the driving age. It was an accident.

Emily Bauer

Emily smoked synthetic marijuana, got a headache, went to sleep, had a series of strokes and almost died. Although now recovering from the event, she has a long road in front of her. It sounds like she is a fighter!

CNN tells a thorough and unbiased story about Bauer and her medical condition prior to the event, which included several pertinent facts:

  • Emily developed persistent migraines about two weeks before she wound up in the ICU.
  • One such migraine sent her to the ER. Doctors scheduled an MRI, but her anxiety and claustrophobia prevented Emily from getting the test.
  • The doctors said the migraines were possibly related to using the drug, but don’t have a picture of her brain from before and after, so they can’t say.
  • Her family doesn’t know how long she’d been using the drug. Her stepfather suspected she started around two weeks before the night that sent her to the hospital. No details about what made him determine this time frame.
  • One professional said she had never heard of a patient having a stroke in these circumstances, although high blood pressure could lead to one.
  • Emily had vasculitis, an inflammation of the blood vessels, which constricted blood and o2 getting to her brain. The doctors believe this is what caused her strokes and may have been caused by the synthetic mj.
  • There is no toxicology screen to detect the substances.

Did synthetic mj cause her strokes? There is no clear evidence to be had. Although, to be fair, most Western medicine is a guessing game. It certainly could have… but did it?

Here’s the critical question for legislators: even if synthetic mj caused Emily’s strokes, does that mean that it will for everyone and should be banned? Obviously not or we’d have thousands of stroke victims on our hands.

Synthetic Marijuana Deaths: Statistically Zero

After spending hours searching for information on synthetic marijuana deaths, reading every report and news article, only the four deaths above have been found. Compared to the thousands and thousands of users, this is a statistical zero. There are many alleged synthetic mj deaths and many casually attributed to it, but, when the reports are inspected, facts don’t support claims. For instance:

  • Synthetic Marijuana Memorials is a page on a website dedicated to the memory of alleged victims. While the list is long and heartbreaking, a little investigation reveals that, except for the four deaths, synthetic mj played a minor role.
  • Three teenage boys had heart attacks and synthetic marijuana was blamed. It’s possible, but far from certain. Maybe even far from likely. The “evidence” in this story is so circumstantial, it’s hard to believe the claim was even made.
  • The two teens in OK did not die from synthetic marijuana. Although that is what they thought they were using, it was actually something called DragonFly that everyone, even sellers of synthetic marijuana, knew was dangerous. The boy who scored the drug is facing prison even though he thought it was synthetic mj.

Ban Paraphernalia? Stupidest. Idea. Ever.

Here in Kentucky, a spotlight-seeking legislator has introduced a bill to ban “drug paraphernalia” in the hopes, I suppose, that would once and for all stop people from using drugs. What an idiot. Not only is that a ridiculous notion, it’s a dangerous one.

In Pennsylvania, where drug paraphernalia is already banned, 13yo Brandon Rice fashioned a pipe out of a Pez dispenser, then used it to smoke synthetic marijuana. The plastic fumes burned his lungs and killed him.

The news reports blame Brandon’s death on synthetic marijuana. However, there is no evidence anywhere that synthetic mj can burn a person’s lungs, whereas inhaling plastic fumes is well-known to do so. The drug warriors are desperate.

Here’s Some News: Prohibition Doesn’t Work

What if, instead of prohibition, we use education…

“Tobacco has contributed to more deaths than alcohol and illicit drugs combined. As a result of education initiatives and marketing and age restrictions, smoking has declined dramatically over time — despite its legality for adults — in one of the greatest public health success stories of the last generation.” — CNN

All of these deaths and injuries are tragedies of prohibition. At the bottom of CNN’s article on Emily, you read:

“Outright criminalization only drives the demand for the drug to the illicit market. Under prohibition, regulators have no control over where the product is sold, who sells it, or to whom they sell it. Arresting young people, moreover, often causes more damage than drug use itself.” — CNN

Here will be the real tragedy: as legislators ban more and more harmless chemicals, there will be nothing left but truly dangerous chemicals to ingest. Then kids will be dying. Because kids are going to get high. Always have, always will. And that is a fact you can take to the bank.

“After 40 years of the ‘war on drugs,’ the evidence clearly shows that it is ineffective to use the criminal justice system to send public health messages. Prohibition simply creates new public health problems and maximizes the harm associated with illegal drug use.”  — CNN

Burning Questions:

“Prohibition simply creates new public health problems and maximizes the harm associated with illegal drug use.” Americans discovered this simple fact during alcohol prohibition. Drug prohibition, like alcohol prohibition before it, has killed and enslaved far, far more people than illegal drug use ever has. Yet our legislators stupidly persist in passing unconstitutional and immoral laws meant to strengthen prohibition!

What do legislators have to gain from so thoroughly ignoring the facts?

Who benefits from drug prohibition?

How do you suggest we solve the problems created by prohibition?