Health

Blame Rand Paul for Teen's Synthetic Marijuana-Related Death?

| by Reason Foundation

By Lucy Steigerwald

Over at New York Daily News is another one of those frustrating stories of a grieving person blaming the wrong person. Naturally the drug war is involved. 

It goes like this: In June 2011, Karen Dobner's son Max smoked synthetic marijuana, had an anxiety attack of some kind, then got into his car, drove it at 100 miles per hour before crashing and dying having "destroyed a suburban home, the car lodged inside a baby’s empty bedroom." 

Dobner is now on a one-woman crusade to make Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) pay. See, as Jacob Sullum noted in February, Paul is the guy blocking the Senate vote to have the Drug Enforcement Administration reclassify synthetic marijuana and other synthetic drugs as schedule 1. He's the one, Dobner believes as paraphrased by the Daily News, who is "putting his libertarian principles before the lives of young people."

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This judge looked an inmate square in the eyes and did something that left the entire courtroom in tears:

He also ignored 15 phone calls from Dobner in which she pleaded for him to pass the bill. Ergo, "He has blood on his hands."  

“I told his aides he cannot survive politically if he keeps stalling this. We will not let it go,” said Dobner, a mother of three from Aurora, Ill. “Anything else he does will be publicized by us. Every time somebody dies we will hold him accountable.”

Dobner started a foundation called To The Maximus to bring public attention to the emerging danger of synthetic drugs masquerading as “herbal” and “natural” highs.

She has also started a blog and newsletter to alert parents and teens to the unpredictable and harrowing effects of smoking or inhaling the chemically sprayed leaves.

On Wednesday, Paul told The News he might be willing to release his hold and allow a vote to proceed if there were some changes in the proposed legislation. “We are concerned about people being put in jail for 20 years for marijuana,” Paul said.

Young Max, by the way, was in college. His smoking of synthetic marijuana (packaged in this case as "iAroma", which he purchased at the mall) is described as being a "naive" choice. Which is fair enough. But he was also very reckless since he endangered the lives of everyone around him on the road, as well as the family who (I assume) were not around when the college student destroyed their home.

We're all young and stupid in college. You don't magically become responsible at that age, but it's just about the age of adulthood. The Daily News' incredibly passive-voiced lede in which Max "was killed" by the drug is completely skirting reality. We're not even talking about the 14-year-old boy who died from smoking synthetic pot out of a Pez dispenser. (And in that case it was the melting plastic which scarred his lungs, that eventually killed him, not the drug. Not that most media outlets reported that pertinent fact.) A June Pediatrics article noted that synthetic marijuana can cause heart attacks in adolescents. It is definitely the cool new drug to be terrified that your children are ingesting and that's not across-the-board nonsense. But come on. Dobner deserves sympathy because she lost her son and that's awful. But she's not pointing fingers at the right person, nor is she recognizing that kids will still ingest illegal substances. Maybe the worst thing for Dobner is there isn't anyone to blame at all for the loss of her child. 

Reason — mostly Jacob Sullum — on synthetic marijuana