Arizona: Health agency finds no deaths caused by marijuana

By Oscar Pascual |

Arizona’s medical cannabis program has not caused any deaths in the state, despite the recent rants of one of the state’s premiere drug warriors.

“Safe pot? Tell that to the 62 kids who died,” read the headline from a widely-published June 15 opinion piece written by Sheila Polk, a county attorney and anti-cannabis activist.

“According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, in a study that examines all deaths in Arizona of children under the age of 18, a disturbing number of child deaths resulted from substance use,” Polk wrote. “Guess which substance was the most prevalent? Not alcohol, not methamphetamine (although they were close seconds), but marijuana. In 2013, marijuana use was associated with the tragic and needless deaths of 62 children in Arizona.”

Claiming such a high number of pot-related deaths seems pretty sensational, which is why the Phoenix New Times actually checked Polk’s facts by reaching Arizona’s Department of Health Services, which publishes the Annual Child Fatality Review Polk mentions in her opinion piece.

The state DHS said that while the deaths may have had marijuana associated in some kind of way, Polk is incorrect in writing that the study reported child deaths directly resulting from using marijuana.

In fact, a spokesperson for the DHS confirmed that there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that marijuana was the cause of any death in Arizona.

Unfortunately, Polk’s overzealous war on drugs clouded her brain into thinking that deaths “associated” with marijuana actually meant that the deaths “resulted” from marijuana.

Even the 2013 study took the time to explain the definition of “associated” — an entry Polk likely skimmed over while highlighting and triple-underlining the number “62.”

The study explains:

Although substance use is a known risk factor in child fatalities, it is important to remember the term “associated” is used because it is not always clear if or how the substance use had a direct or contributing effect on the fatality incident.

The CFR program defines substance use as associated with a child’s death if the child, the child’s parent, caretaker and/or if the person responsible for the death, during or about the time of the incident leading to the death, used or abused substances, including illegal drugs, prescription drugs, and/or alcohol.

Much like the half-truth Polk is touting, her anti-pot rants might be associated with the Drug War, although it likely won’t result in returning to prohibition any time soon.

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