Denver murder suspect says the pot made him do it


A week ago Friday, lawyers for Richard Kirk, a Denver man who is charged with the murder of his wife after eating a cannabis edible during a domestic disturbance in April 2014, changed his original plea from not guilty to not guilty by reason of insanity.

The pot made him do it. Had he not ingested a marijuana edible, he wouldn’t have murdered his wife, Kristine, who was on the phone with 911 when she was shot.

It’s a horrible story. Police reports indicate that the incident took place at home while their three sons were present. According to a police affidavit for a search warrant, Richard Kirk bought a Bubba Kush joint and a 100-milligram piece of Karma Kandy Orange Ginger taffy at a store on South Colorado Boulevard. He apparently ate some or all of the candy, came home, began arguing with his wife and acting irrationally, cutting his legs on broken glass, before unlocking the gun safe and shooting his wife in the head.

That’s pretty much been the way this story has played out in the media, with special emphasis on the marijuana consumption. The incident happened just four months after legalization, and the story went worldwide, mostly because of the phone call, in which Kristine Kirk describes drunken behavior by her husband before the shooting.

The resultant outcry, along with the death of a young man who jumped or fell to his death from a hotel window after eating an edible, is among the reasons that the state legislature is looking again at edibles rules and regulations. Final changes are due at the end of the year.

As the Kirk case winds through the court system, we keep learning more. It wasn’t the first time police had been called to the home. A police detective told investigators that the couple had been involved in domestic disputes in the weeks leading up to the shooting. There were big credit card and tax debts. THC was the only drug found in Kirk’s system, but the concentration of 2.3 nanograms per milliliter is lower than the level required for impairment in Colorado. (It’s not known when the blood was drawn, and THC levels can rise or drop dramatically after ingestion.)

It’s hard to say what the defense is planning. In Colorado, if you willingly use drugs or alcohol, you can’t use that as a qualification for an insanity plea. His lawyers will have to prove he has mental problems that render him incapable of decisionmaking.

Kirk will be evaluated at the Colorado Mental Health Institution and a hearing on his mental state is scheduled for Dec. 17.

In other news, a Senate Medical Affairs subcommittee in South Carolina voted to advance a bill that would legalize marijuana for certain medical conditions. The bill’s main sponsor, Sen. Thom Davis, feels that the general assembly is supportive of efforts to allow cancer, glaucoma and AIDS patients in the state to use cannabis.

According to a story in The State in Columbia, South Carolina, Law Enforcement Division head Mark Keel indicated his displeasure by testifying that allowing medical marijuana would make it easier for teens to obtain it. He also claimed, incorrectly, that in states that have legalized medical marijuana, more teens are users.

The panel was immediately onto his bullshit. One co-sponsor said the only thing currently limiting high school students from buying marijuana is their pocketbook. Another said, “Any system that we come up with is going to be abused.”

The bill passed over Keel’s objections and now goes to the full Senate Medical Affairs Committee early next year. If it passes, it heads for the full Senate and then the South Carolina House.

Finally, some really depressing news from the Uniform Crime Report prepared by the FBI and released this month. There were 700,993 arrests in 2014 for marijuana violations in the U.S. That’s 7,511 more than in 2013, and it’s the first time that the number of arrests has gone up since 2009.

More than 88 percent of those were for possession alone. Arrests for marijuana account for almost 45 percent of all drug arrests, which, incidentally, is the largest category of offenses for which people are arrested. And all this despite the fact that four states have legalized recreational use and more states are allowing medical exceptions every month. Such a waste.

You can hear Leland discuss his most recent column and Colorado cannabis issues each Thursday morning on KGNU.