what happened to our daughter
because I don't want it to happen to anyone ever again
I don’t want to write this essay, but I am compelled beyond my capacity to ignore. I write this essay for every parent who doesn’t know about this threat to their children. I write it for anyone, anywhere that might just know the person or people this is intended for. I know they’re out there, I just don’t know who they are. And I write this because my daughter, Mila, who died by suicide on May 10th, 2021, insists that I do.
Suicide is multifactorial. A vile symphony of parts that come together in a mighty clash of a finale. I will share with you the story of our daughter, Mila. Illuminated and iridescent Mila. Soft hearted Mila. Funny Mila. A girl with a mind capable of feats beyond a mere mortal. She was a champion of the underdog, a girl who never understood cruelty for gain. She played hockey and rugby and milked cows and wrote stories. She was the shepherdess of barn cats and the milker of devoted cows. She loved board games (winning board games, mostly) and raw cream and she loved her sisters and her family. Mila who, in a matter of less than six months, tried smoking marijuana for the first time, became addicted, developed marijuana induced psychosis, and took her own life.
“Took her own life.” Really? In the anguished months since that time, that part still seems like a lie. She did that? Mila? The grounded, happy, common sense girl did that? It’s a misalignment of facts, but not because I’m in denial - there is no denial in the world I live in. It’s a misalignment of facts because I wonder who was in control of the gears in her brain when she died? Her? When someone ends the life of another we have degrees for it. We use different words depending on whether they were in their right mind. If the murder was planned, for how long and how intricately? Or were they responsible for a murder but not in their mind? Circumstance dictates whether we label it manslaughter or murder in the first or second or third degree. When someone ends their own life, it was them, they did it and that’s that.
Only with our daughter, it wasn’t her. It was a ravaged brain, hijacked by a product that masquerades as the innocuous pot we knew growing up. That innocent joint, ridiculously ridiculed, passed around at a Van Halen concert, a puff or two each. That joint that had somewhere between 2-4% THC. How could pot be anything but a good time? That’s certainly what the mammoth cannabis industry wants us all to believe as they expand into ever-growing markets.
Those joints, that marijuana flower, are not what many of these kids are smoking today. They’re smoking distillates and vapes and resins and waxes and dabs and things called shatter. They’re smoking laboratory creations meant to drive addiction and set off dopamine avalanches in their still developing brains. These products, some in the 99% THC content range are meant for obliteration, not a gentle groove to some mellow beats. They’re a laboratory creation meant to addict. They want us coming back for more.
In the late fall of 2020, Mila wrote in her diary about her frustration with lockdowns and her dwindling friend group. According to the mandates in our province, she wasn’t supposed to be socializing at all. Some parents forbade their kids from participating in the clandestine friend gatherings. In her small friend group, their get togethers often involved smoking and consuming drugs. She wrote of her boyfriend, and other friends, always being high on pens and that she was “pissed off” because their limited interactions were wasteful for her - other kids high and laughing and her sitting there “bored”.
Pens, as we have come to learn, are the vaping pens that many of the teenagers in our area purchase from the First Nations reservation, a place they call “the rez”. There, pot shops are run openly without governmental oversight. These stores look like Apple stores, glossy and white and legitimate. These kids, and in fact many of the adults that frequent these stores, have no idea that the products on the shelves are not tested or regulated. Many of the kids here have figured out which stores don’t require ID and will make “runs” to make bulk pot purchases.
In a regulated cannabis store in Canada there are limits on quantities that can be purchased, the amount of THC a product can contain, and the labelling and the testing of the product must fall within government parameters. In “the rez” pot shops, none of that exists. Kids without ID can purchase as much product as they want of whatever they want. I asked the police how this continues and was told, “politics”. In the next breath, from the same policeman, I was told that it is known in the policing community that these shops are connected to organized crime that involves human trafficking, gun running et. al.
In November of 2020, Mila wrote, again in her diary, of trying the pen for the first time and “loving it”. A month later she wrote that she couldn’t sleep anymore. Within a few weeks she was using the pens everyday and then, throughout the night, to fall back to sleep. All of her normal brainwave patterns and hormones were askew. The artificial surge in dopamine would crash her dopamine levels below baseline and she would feel unbelievably despondent and need to raise those levels again. Soon enough, the deadly combination of her unique biochemistry and these diabolical lab concoctions melded into insomnia, irrational thinking, and hallucinations. But her friends all seemed fine so it couldn’t be the drugs, right?
All of these things were well hidden from us. We knew there was something wrong, but when we spoke to her she chalked it up to Covid lockdowns and her concerns about her future. She wouldn’t get vaccinated which meant that while her friends were excitedly planning where they would live in the residence buildings, she was looking at rental places where she would live alone off campus. It was an incredibly difficult time to be in her grade twelve year with so many unknowns. Hockey, a sport she had played since she was four years old, had ended as did rugby. Sports were another victim of mandates. We could understand her level of stress and so her explanations seemed reasonable.
Then she decided she didn’t want to go to university at all. Then she wanted to travel the world. Then she wanted to move out east. For a young woman that was always incredibly responsible and surefooted, her decisions were puzzling to us. When we tried to speak to her about her weight loss and her moodiness, she insisted it was because of all of the above. Final exams and the stress of not knowing and maybe she shouldn’t even go to university. We encouraged her to take a year off, let things settle down with covid restrictions, save up some cash. She had always been incredibly mature, honest, and responsible. We had no reason to believe anything else was going on other than what we discussed.
In the new year she was caught skipping school and had privileges taken away. It was the first time she had ever been in any real trouble. A week later she told us she was moving out. We were flabbergasted. Her older sisters were flabbergasted. All of us spoke with her, tried to figure out what was happening. She broke up with her longterm boyfriend and then was devastated that she had. We spent hours and hours trying to understand what was going on. We spoke. We listened. We struggled to find sense in a voice that didn’t even seem familiar. To all of us in our family, she insisted that she wanted to spend the last few months of grade twelve closer to the city, living with a friend, so she could have a more robust social life. She had always loved living in the country, loved the animals and nature, but now it was only “limiting”. She wanted out. It was so unusual and out of character for her. Of course, in hindsight, knowing that she was chronically using pens and edibles and her brain was no longer clear and concise, it makes sense. But then, none of us understood what was happening.
She moved into her friend’s house and the drug use increased exponentially. When I tell you of things she said in her diary, it’s not because we had to go looking for it. She left it for us. She wrote notes to us in it. She wanted us to have it. She was often so obliterated by these “pens” that she, an honour roll student and a kid with a 98% average, couldn’t spell or form words in its pages. She left us her diary because I believe that she knew we wouldn’t have ever understood otherwise.
When they told us she was dead I was certain she was murdered. There could be no other explanation. Nothing else was even within the realm of possibility.
In her diary, she writes about things she’s seeing and hearing. Later, her friends told us about her calling them, terrified and shut in a closet, because she believed there were people outside of it trying to hurt her. They also told me that our house was haunted and shared stories of what she told them. When I asked them why they didn’t say anything or recognize that as her needing help they said, “I thought she could see ghosts.”
They thought she could see ghosts.
I can think of no better sentence to exemplify the woeful education we have given our young people when we decided to legalize this drug in our country. Her friends had no idea how much trouble she was in. But did I even know? I didn’t know any of this before. We have two older daughters who didn’t have access to these highly concentrated products when they were teens. Pot wasn’t legal then. They smoked pot a few times, could take it or leave it. I was never a fan, but didn’t think much else of it. I didn’t even really care if they legalized it. I figured it was the same stuff I had smoked back in the day only now it would be regulated and safe. That’s not at all the story.
Calling these highly refined and concentrated resins and edibles “marijuana” is like calling opium a poppy or crack a coca plant. It is nothing of the sort. In fact, there’s no marijuana flower even in the final product of these pens and edibles and dabs and whatever else they sell. Instead genetically engineered plant has been highly processed, the THC extracted with solvents and chemically manipulated into a super concentrated offering meant for maximum effect. The marijuana industry is a mammoth behemoth, a multi billion dollar industry. Notice how we’re hearing of these things more and more. There has been a huge shift. Why? Who stands to profit in the normalization of lives lived in an altered reality?
There are endless studies on the growing prevalence of cannabis induced psychosis which, in 50% of the cases progresses into schizophrenia. I will fill the bottom of this essay with all manner of references to studies including ones on this topic and a whole host of other side effects of using these concentrated THC products. I will include support groups where thousands upon thousands of parents have come together to grieve their beautiful children that all died by suicide after having their brains hijacked by THC. And I will point you to the books written by the heartbroken and the fed up. What I can’t do is point you to the governmental resources for kids and that’s why I’m writing this. It’s the only reason I’m writing this. If I, a pretty checked-out mom when it comes to everything from organic food to the goings-on of my kids to the chemicals in the synthetic clothing I avoided for them, could be so blindsided, it can happen to anyone. I want it to happen to no one. Ever.
In the last few weeks of Mila’s life, she couldn’t sleep for more than a few minutes at a time. She reached out to a drug counsellor at her school and shared her delusions and hallucinations with him. He told her to moderate her usage. That’s the model they use, “moderation”. She was having a medical emergency and it was missed. A week later, feeling there was something more serious with what she had shared with him, the counsellor tried to reach out to her. It was too late.
On the morning of her death, our daughter called a drug addiction crisis line. They said they would email her a link to a drug program. She wrote of the conversation in her diary. “Too little, too late” she said. The link came via email the day after her death.
What is most excruciating to us is that in the end, she saw herself as irredeemable. Broken. Fucked up. She was so deeply lost in a mind run amok that she couldn’t even recognize the difference between herself and the poison pulsing through her body, overriding her beautiful brain, stealing her sense and her peace and her joy. Instead, she saw it as her utter failing at life. Inescapable.
And now we live our days here. Every day, every moment. Inescapable. And still, we must love and be open to love. This essay is me loving even in the pain. My deepest desire is to have these words find the person they are intended for. My hope is that some of you might click on some of these links, might read some stories from other parents, might come to understand what is happening to too many of our bright and beautiful. It is trite to say, if one person can be saved, it’s worth it. I don’t want one person, I want every single one of those beauties ripped back from the clutches of a greedy industry gone wild. Every one.
Please share if it’s within you to share. Please talk about this with your children. There are a myriad of resources below. I do not need sympathy. This is not about me. I ask, instead, for your efforts to educate yourselves, to protect and educate your babies, and to inform others on the realities of what is no longer “just pot”.
Lastly, this is not a debate. Smoke pot if you want, I really don’t care. If you do, hopefully you can see beyond your defences of a habit to a bigger picture that involves the futures and safety of our young. I’m not here to judge anyone’s choices, I’m here to spread this very intimate and painful part of our lives because I am being asked to, because it’s the right thing to do, and because Mila has been speaking to my heart.
For you, Mila. I did as you asked.
Resources & Notes
As I said, suicide is multi-factorial and we believe that the circumstances around covid, including limitations on socializing, the closing of schools where we live, the ending of sports activities, and the restrictions on Mila’s future plans for schools all played a role in setting the stage for her use of high THC vaping pens and the chemicals in those pens were her annihilation. We believe that the covid mandates and shutdowns set the stage for Mila’s use of THC. I wrote about this on Heather Heying’s Substack, Natural Selections. You can read that essay here.
A year ago, we compiled hundreds of pages of studies, documents, and evidence and submitted it to our provincial coroner with an official request for a coroner’s inquest. Included in this package were the results of the chemical analysis we had done by a federally regulated laboratory on the vaping pen products that were in Mila’s possession. If you are a professional organization and would like access to the entire package with the intent purpose of sharing it or researching further to share on your platform, please email me with those details via the email address on my about page.
This package is not intended for personal use as the investigation is ongoing. For everyone else: the vaping pens were saturated with illegal, banned chemicals and some dangerous levels of heavy metals. Our hope is that the coroner will investigate this issue. We wait, but we don’t wait powerlessly.
Updated to add: I am including here the pesticides and heavy metals that exceeded the safety limits in the vaping pens we had tested. Of course, this was one sample from one store so cannot be interpreted as what’s in all vaping pens. There is likely a lot more in some and maybe less in others. There were many more pesticides and heavy metals prestent that fell under the “acceptable” level. These are just the ones that exceeded those values.
Pesticides exceeding safety values: Azoxystrobin, Bifenazate, Boscalid, Cyprodinil, Dichlorvis, Fludioxonil, Fluopyram, Imidacloprid, Malathion, Metalaxyl, Myclobutanil (500 times allowable) Paclobutrazol, Piperonyl butoxide, Propiconazole (300 times allowable), Pyraclostrobin, Pyrethrins, Pyridaben.
Heavy metals: aluminum, boron, bismuth, copper, nickel, tin, zinc
“Tell Your Children” by Alex Berenson. Every parent should read this book.
“The Dangerous Truth About Today’s Marijuana: Johnny Stack’s Life and Death Story” Laura Stack
“Smokescreen: What the Marijuana Industry Doesn’t Want You to Know” Kevin A. Sabet, Ph.D.
Organizations, Advocacy, and Parent Support Groups:
International Academy on the Science and Impact of Cannabis (their website is loaded with studies and information)
Johnny’s Ambassadors - Youth Marijuana Prevention, “I want you to know you were right. You told me marijuana would hurt my brain. It’s ruined my mind and my life, and I’m sorry. I love you.” — Johnny Stack to his mother, 3 days before he died by suicide.
Moms Strong - “telling our stories, unmasking the marijuana charade”
AALM excellent video on this page called “Chronic State” that addresses the genetically modified plants commonly sold today
POPOT Parents Opposed to Pot
Articles and other media:
Marijuana Killed My Son (if no others, please read this one)
A Panel Study on the Effect of Cannabis Use on Mental Health, Depression and Suicide in the 50 States
Get Help, extensive list of resources for parents
Cannabis Induced Psychosis in Teenagers and Young Adults: Risk Factors, Detection, Management
Editor of ‘Cannabis in Medicine’ warns of high THC use and increased psychosis
California Cannabis Markets - Why Industry Friendly Regulation is Not Good Public Health (JAMA)
When Cannabis Goes Wrong: Mental Health Side Effects of Cannabis Use that Present to Emergency Services (up to 50% of people presenting to ED with psychosis go on to develop schizophrenia)
Video: Colorado Family Blames High Potency Marijuana for Son’s Suicide
Video: Is Marijuana Linked to Psychosis, Schizophrenia? It’s Contentious but Doctors, Feds Say Yes.
Video: THC the Human Consequences
Marijuana Legalization Was a Mistake. Highly Concentrated Pot is Destroying My Son’s Life.
Access to Cannabis Should Not Occur Prior to Age 21, according to a position statement by the Canadian Consortium for Early Intervention in Psychosis
Podcast: High Truths on Drugs and Addiction with Dr. Roneet Lev interviewing Alex Berenson
Extensive list to cannabis related studies by category
Cannabis smoking increases the risk of suicide ideation and suicide attempt in young individuals of 11–21 years: A systematic review and meta-analysis
Association of cannabis potency with mental ill health and addiction: a systematic review, the Lancet
Consensus paper of the WFSBP task force on cannabis, cannabinoids and psychosis
Meta-analysis of the Association Between the Level of Cannabis Use and Risk of Psychosis
Proportion of Patients in South London with First-Episode Psychosis Attributable to Use of High Potency Cannabis: A Case-Control Study. Lancet Psychiatry, 2015; 2(3): 233–8.
Increases in Frequent Vaping of Cannabis Among High School Seniors in the United States, 2018–2019
Aberrant hippocampal shape development in young adults with heavy cannabis use: Evidence from a longitudinal study
Adolescent cannabis use and later development of schizophrenia: An updated systematic review of longitudinal studies
Cannabis use disorder and suicide attempts in Iraq/Afghanistan-era veterans
Cannabis use may be associated with suicidality in young adults