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Editors' ChoiceWar on the “War on Drugs” Posts

The Only Cannabis Deaths Come from the U.S. Drug War

By February 26, 2014July 22nd, 2022No Comments


By Jane Hash

The following originally appeared in The Leaf Online

Nearly half of the States in the U.S. currently allow the use of Cannabis for either recreational or medical purposes. While much has been made about the thousands of studies showing valuable medical benefits from this herb, there has been a conspicuous lack of scientific studies even suggesting that Cannabis is dangerous.

However, it is widely known that cannabis can get you killed. Here are examples of how you — or someone you love — could fall victim to the wiles of this crafty yet felonious garden vegetable.

[Editor’s Note: There has never been a recorded cannabis overdose or death. However, thousands die every year in America and beyond as a result of U.S. cannabis prohibition. Even more are locked up for life for nonviolent, cannabis-related crimes. Here are a few examples of the ways in which the criminal justice policysurrounding cannabis is far more dangerous than the plant they prohibit.]

Get arrested for possession or cultivation.

Peter McWilliams was a successful author of self-help books, like How to Survive the Loss of Loveand Ain’t Nobody’s Business If You Do: The Absurdity of Consensual Crimes in Our Free Country.In 1996, the same year California voters legalized medical marijuana, McWilliams was diagnosed with AIDS and cancer and put on chemotherapy. Unable to undergo his debilitating treatment, he realized that the massive amounts of prescribed pharmaceutical drugs made him vomit back up the medicines without receiving any benefit. To control the nausea and vomiting, he disregarded federal law and started using Cannabis under California state law to treat his condition.

After a year of self-medicating, McWilliams was arrested with other people associated with the West Hollywood Cannabis Buyers’ Club for possession, cultivation and conspiracy to deliver cannabis to other qualified patients. His family did not want him to suffer in jail while awaiting trial, so they put up their homes as bond for his release. He was subject to regular urine tests to make sure he was not using Marijuana. This left him with no choice but to take his prescription medications and in 2000 he died in his wheelchair from choking on his own vomit, a reaction to the same chemotherapy drugs he had to take as a treatment.

At least McWilliams died at home, unlike Montana medical marijuana provider Richard Flor, who died in police custody in 2011 after showing law enforcement his garden and explaining that his activities were all legal under state law. They chose not to believe him and, likewise, they chose not to believe claims by him and his family that his frail health could not survive behind bars without treatment. Then it was too late.

Buying from the wrong dealer, or not selling to undercover narcs.

Rachel Hoffman was a 23 year-old graduate of Florida State University and a very smart, economical young woman who would occasionally purchase a bulk quarter pound of cannabis, keep a small amount for herself and sell the rest to her close friends. Law enforcement learned of her activity and she was arrested.

Hoffman was coerced into becoming a confidential informant (CI) to avoid a lengthy prison term. Police sent her on an undercover “buy-bust” mission with $13,000 in marked bills to buy cocaine, Ecstasy (MDMA) and a gun. Hoffman said she was apprehensive. She had always bought cannabis from trusted friends, and never dealt with these types of hardcore, drug-thug dealers before let alone ever touching or handling a gun.

Unfortunately for Hoffman, Deneilo Bradshaw and Andrea Green were experienced criminals who sensed something was wrong with their arrangement. They lured her away from the first location they had planned to meet up and the police lost track of her. Her body was found two days later with 5 bullets in her head and chest from the gun she was supposed to buy from Bradshaw and Green, the bad guys.

At least her family gets the benefit of knowing that the men who killed Hoffman were punished for the crime. Unlike security guard Patrick Dorismond, who was shot and killed by an undercover New York City plainclothes cop trying to make a drug buy from him in 2000. When Dorismond became angry and began berating the narc for assuming that every African American is a drug dealer, a second undercover cop intervened, then a van abruptly drove up, plainclothes police jumped out of it and piled onto Dorismond, who by that point was desperately fighting for his life against a gang of unknown but armed assailants. He was shot during the altercation and died shortly thereafter. Thepolice in that case were not punished, in fact the department defended this murder of an innocent man by a gang of thugs. Apparently, if an undercover cop wants you to sell him drugs, you’d better do it.

More research needed.

Given all the positive benefits of medical marijuana and its growing popularity among sick and dying Americans across the nation, it is important that the U.S. Congress should demand its agencies to conduct research on these and other case studies showing that marijuana use — or disuse, in the case of Dorismond — are both linked to numerous incidents of death at the hands of law enforcement. For more stories on this phenomenon, click here.


IBW21 (The Institute of the Black World 21st Century) is committed to enhancing the capacity of Black communities in the U.S. and globally to achieve cultural, social, economic and political equality and an enhanced quality of life for all marginalized people.