Did Marijuana Kill John Patrick Bedell?


Is marijuana responsible for John Patrick Bedell's suicidal assault on the Pentagon? Yes, says Washington Post blogger Charles Lane, although his theory of the plant's criminogenic effects is slightly more sophisticated than Harry Anslinger's. Instead of obtaining "effective treatment for his obviously serious mental illness," says Lane, Bedell sought help for his insomnia from a California physician, who gave him a recommendation for marijuana. "Bedell's loved ones' anguish at his death," Lane writes, "may be compounded now by the knowledge that, at one important moment in his troubled life, a doctor gave him help obtaining more marijuana—as opposed to real help." Lane believes this incident illustrates his point that "the legalization of physician-recommended pot in California is a prescription for disaster because it authorizes the 'treatment' of a wide range of real maladies with a spurious 'medicine'…that might be ineffective or actually harmful." Although Lane thinks marijuana's medicinal benefits are generally fictitious, he is willing to let cancer and AIDS patients use it, as long as they're dying. Furthermore, he wants to "debate legalizing marijuana as a recreational drug." In short, Lane is prepared to consider a legal regime that would have allowed Bedell to obtain all the pot he wanted (something he apparently managed to do anyway), as long as no one called it a medicine.

Lane is right that a lot of recreational pot smoking is masquerading as medical use in California, and he is also right to suggest that general legalization would be better than the current situation. But given his confidence that Bedell's maladjustment, wacky beliefs, and violence were all symptoms of a disease that psychiatrists know how to treat, I'm not sure how Lane can so readily reject the idea that people are using marijuana as a medicine when they use it to alleviate such quotidian psychological problems as stress, anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Psychiatrists do treat such problems with government-approved pharmaceuticals, after all. Lane cites one psychiatrist who "knows of no research to support the notion that marijuana is a safe and effective remedy for chronic insomnia." The psychiatrist agrees pot "can be a sedative," but adds, "You could say the same thing for alcohol." Well, yes, you could. And you would be right, unless everyone who has ever taken a nightcap has been imagining its effectiveness. Likewise, marijuana surely helps some people who have trouble getting to sleep, which is the problem for which Bedell sought medical assistance. If marijuana were treated like alcohol, there would have been no reason for Bedell to seek a doctor's recommendation entitling him to purchase it, but that would not have changed the nature of the benefit he got from it.

Lane suggests Bedell's California physician was negligent. But it sounds like he gave Bedell what he wanted, and Bedell was pleased by the results. I can see how that might offend those who believe doctors should treat patients like children instead of paying customers. Did marijuana use compound Bedell's problems or, as he believed, relieve them? I don't know, but I am willing to entertain the possibility that marijuana, like psychiatrist-prescribed pharmaceuticals, can improve people's ability to function as well as impair it. If Bedell had obtained whatever "effective treatment" psychiatrists thought appropriate but had nevertheless shot guards outside the Pentagon, would Lane have blamed that prescription for the attack?

NEXT: "So Why Is the Swedish Welfare State So Successful?"

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. da reefers sho’ make me crave sum o’ dat white pussy

    1. Si!

    2. I didn’t know you played jazz Mr. President.

    3. I would recommend some gentle cervical traction, young man.

    4. Oscar show! famous stars! I saw many sexy big and beautiful…I think car is the most dangerous place for them. Photos of under wear is taken..

      please log in to see.
      __s u g a r b a b y m e e t___ d o t com.. free for register.
      Avator is the best.

      1. LOL WUT

          1. Sm0K3 EM’ IF u GoTs Em’

  2. Disclaimer: I am in favor of fully legalizing MJ

    That said, IIRC, wasn’t Bedell diagnosed as bipolar?? Based on empirical evidence (my son is bipolar and chooses to self-medicate with pot while refusing to take his Rx meds) and studies I have read; this combination tends to exacerbate rather than relieve the problem. The patient “feels better” when high compared to the Rx meds, but their behavior can be just as unpredictable if not worse.

    A case could be made for physician negligence is he was aware of this.

    There is NO such thing as a panacea. It wasn’t true for snake oil, and it’s not true for MJ. That’s not how pharmacology works.

    1. Full disclosure: I am also diagnosed bipolar.

      There really aren’t “good” solutions to it. The current preferred medication (Seroquel) is really freakin’ expensive and it ain’t a sedative, it’s an out like a light drug. The first time I took it, 30 minutes later I thought I was having a stroke. This would have been more troubling if I had been awake long enough to worry for long. 10 hours later I woke up wondering what the hell happened. I’m also that rarest of libertarian creatures: one who doesn’t smoke pot (don’t smoke at all).

      I somehow manage to get through days, weeks and years without going on a shooting spree. At some point people are responsible for their own behavior. bipolar or not. Not anyone or any _thing_ else.

      1. 1. Based on my experiences with my son, if you are in fact bipolar, why would I believe a damn thing you say??? {/humor}

        2. Good points all. I wish that you could spend an afternoon talking to my kid. There are days when he completely sells out to the “it’s not my fault, I have a disease” bullshit.

        1. Well there is that element to it, you really can’t stop your brain sometimes. It thinks what it wants to think and no matter how many logic and reason bullets you want to fire at it, it’s rate of fire swamps yours.

          But even if you’re losing that battle temporarily, if you just stay busy fighting it you buy time preventing you from doing something stupid that will temporarily make you feel better. Some of my most regretted decisions in my life have come from the bottom cycles and I’ve vowed to try and remember that from now on whenever one hits. It sure ain’t easy, but I think it helps.

          1. Sonny boy has been alternately Dx as ADHD, OCD, ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder?? WTF, how many kids DON’T have this one), and Bipolar Disorder. This has taught me two things:

            1. At the end of the day, Psychiatry and voodoo appear to have similar potholes in their “scientific” method.

            2. As much as I love the boy, I often think that the most comprehensive and accurate Dx would be “Asshole SOB who has somehow learned to get away with behavior I would have been killed for as a child Disorder”.

            1. Oppositional Defiant Disorder

              Isn’t that a key part of being a child? Kids that don’t oppose their parents have something wrong with them.

              1. The technical description lists all the things you would expect from a kid that age, but defines the disorder as behavior well in excess of his age group’s.

                You know, kid stuff, like stabbing or punching a teacher, and muggings.

                1. Did you son have all the disorders that you listed or was it a process of elimination?

                  1. It was a sequential thing. I honestly don’t know how to tag his issues, and I don’t think the Dr.’s do either.

                    And for the record, he never stabbed his teacher, or mugged anyone. That was a joke.

            2. Who let him get away with what? Aren’t you the parent?

              1. You obviously haven’t had to deal on a daily basis with someone who lives in an alternate universe.

                I have 4 intelligent, even-tempered, and responsible children…and then there’s him. Normal, or even severe, consequences hold no meaning for him beyond confirmation in his mind that everybody else is an asshole.

                It started when he was 4, and he kicked his prechool teacher in the shins because she wanted him to help put toys away. His 16th and 17th years were spent in juvenile “treatment” facilities after he stole money from us and rabbited.

                You can no more “control” someone like that than you can the weather. You can just try to direct them away from REALLY bad choices.

                You ever see “lockup” type reality shows? The inmates who get so out of control that the SWAT team bum rushes them and they end up in 23 hour/day solitary, banging on the bars, yelling about how “the man fucked me”? That’s my boy when he twists off, and it can start over the most innocuous thing.

                When he’s not twisting off, he’s a sweet, though scattershot kid.

                1. Has anyone suggested your son might have reactive attachment disorder? It often gets misdiagnosed as bipolar or add and a bunch of other things.

      2. Seroquel (quetiapine) is an antipsychotic that has the side effect of knocking you on your ass. It gets used for a bunch of stuff it was never intended for, though treating bipolar disease is sort of appropriate; that’s at least what it was initially approved for. It also has a number of side effects.

        1. Well I’ve dodged pretty much all the side effects except the sleep one. It really doesn’t seem to do much to me, good or bad, besides knock you out like Mike Tyson in his prime.

          I wouldn’t recommend it but I wouldn’t recommend against it either. It’s a hard thing to gauge.

          1. I wouldn’t recommend it but I wouldn’t recommend against it either. It’s a hard thing to gauge.

            Seems pretty valid if applied to all drugs.

            1. I think it shows a fair amount of promise as a low dosage sleep aid, but it’s a little too expensive for that and I think it would also suffer in marketing because of it’s anti-psychotic. Nobody wants to admit they take an anti-psychotic.

              Well nobody except me apparently. 🙂

              1. Seroquel’s side effects are not trivial, whether it’s weight gain, tachycardia, or even diabetes. Be glad you don’t suffer from any of them.

                Taking atypical antipsychotics is really only for those that need them, like you. I wouldn’t go near it as a sleep aid, that’s for sure.

                1. But the anti-psychotic dosage (200 to 600 mgs daily) and the sleep aid dosage (25 mgs daily) are completely different and so the risks are similarly different.

                  And of course one of the most common reasons for being unable to get normal sleep is being high on the bipolar spectrum.

                  Also obviously with a drug like this you have to constantly monitor for those side effects and I’ve done so. If they popped up, I’d stop taking it and try something else. So far (a couple years now) so good.

                  1. I should also note that I’m Bipolar II instead of the scarier “Baby Face Nelson from Oh Brother Where Art Thou” Bipolar I.

                    So obviously there’s bipolar folks a hell of a lot worse off than I am. But the symptoms are specific enough and fit me extremely well, that I’m pretty sure I have it in at least some mild form.

      3. How about anticonvulsants like carbamazepine, valproic acid or the traditional lithium. These are mood stabilizing with less side effects than neuroleptics like Seroquel. They do have significant side effects nonetheless. Combined with an antidepressant they can be effective. I take carbamazepine, lexapro and wellbutrin.

  3. If you’re taking 64 tablets of Tums every day to quiet your heartburn, you really need to see a doctor…and if your doctor just tells you to keep taking Tums, you need a second opinion.

    Unfortunately using med MJ as a substitute for legalization leads to this regime of physicians half-expecting that patients are complaining of nausea or insomnia just because they want a permission slip to get high. After a while they probably stop bothering to look for underlying causes, since when they don’t find any it will lead to the uncomfortable situation of accusing the patient of lying.

  4. Their behavior can be just as unpredictable if not worse, compared to no treatment, that is.

  5. 4 out of 5 doctors recommend Washington Post bloggers to their patients with insomnia.

  6. “”You could say the same thing for alcohol.” Well, yes, you could. And you would be right, unless everyone who has ever taken a nightcap has been imagining its effectiveness.”

    It should also be noted that alchohol is in several over the counter medications like NyQuil.

  7. Jeffrey Dahmer drank alcohol so should we make alcohol prohibited so people won’t kill each other for a late night snack?

    1. John Wayne Gacy was a Democratic Party precinct captain who organized Democratic Party floats in Polish pride parades and whose fondest memory was to have an audience and photo with First Lady Rosalyn Carter. Should we outlaw the Democratic Party to end child abuse….?

      1. Or should we outlaw grown men from dressing up as clowns?

  8. From what I’ve seen of the psychiatric industry, taking psychatric drugs would not have helped. When patients see two psychiatrists, they get two different diagnosis. The process is more guess work than science.

    1. Medicine isn’t science.
      Psychiatry isn’t medicine

    2. I have found that this also happens with roofers.

      1. Roofing has more of a claim to “science” too.

      2. Roofing has more of a claim to “science” too.

  9. So, if this douche had been on whatever SSRI or SNRI or DNRI of the month is hot right now, I would be reading a Bedell column sniveling about the dangers of antidepressants, right?

    1. But what you would NOT be reading is his FaceBook page. Post-mortems are all well and good but the question remains with no journalist covering it: why did FaceBook take down Bedell’s page?

  10. This article is full of problems… But I won’t wste my time explaining each and every one of them. I’d just like to point out how “reefer madness” is still alive and still leads to idiodic and quite frankly ILLOGICAL CONNECTIONS to be made. Weed does not contribute to mental illness. Do your homework moron. Many studies have been published. Take you lies/propaganda and go bury yourself in the sand. One messed up situation does not mean that weed = DEVIL DRUG! Use your logic. How many violent stoners do you really know? I’ll tell you what, not many.

    God you lying government slaves irritate the crap out of me.

    Alcohol contributes far, far more often to violent behaviors than marijuana ever will. EVER!

    Also, how often do people do stupid things while under the influence of pharmaceutical drugs. such as Ambien? how many people have gotten into their car and drove off a bridge? or destroyed their bathroom? walked around town naked? That’s just one example.

    Our system is broken and I fear for the well-being of this country.

    1. Since there’s no way you can be our resident sockpuppet “Tony”, I’d just like to warn you that there is a very disliked poster who uses the unlinked handle “Tony” already on this board, and you might want to change yours a bit so as not to be confused with him.

      1. Allow me to suggest adding “Danza” to the end. That would be way too cool for Chony, so you’d know its not him.

        1. I second this idea. Or, alternatively, adding Banta, as you get both the Danza reference and the Taxi reference in one shot, which is WAY too cool for Chony.

      2. Allow me to suggest Not THAT Fucking Douchebag Tony! as your handle.

      3. Epi, there is now way anyone will confuse this Tony with are beloved Tony.

  11. Anyone who has used both alcohol and pot knows that alcohol reduces your inhibitions and pot does something like the opposite. I’ve never heard anyone say “yeah, he came home high on pot and beat his wife.” I would look elsewhere to explain Bedell’s homicidal tendencies.

    1. Except they’re not even directly blaming the pot. He took pot instead of getting a prescription med that “actually worked”. So really, it was still his mental disorder that cause him to kill people. BUT, he would’ve received “real treatment” had doctors not just let him get high. How that equates to “pot is bad” is the step in their logic that I’m missing.

      1. I think that the whole medical MJ issue would gain more traction if the proponents picked a reasonable list of problems that it might ameliorate, instead of claiming it as the 21st C equivalent of cod-liver oil.

        I repeat: There is NO such thing as a panacea. It wasn’t true for snake oil, and it’s not true for MJ. That’s not how pharmacology works.

        But try arguing that with someone who is sold on medical MJ…and I am FOR legalization, just not on spurious grounds.

        1. No disagreement here. And the sanke oil reference is one that really pisses me off. The FDA was created to eliminate products like snake oil. Except now all you have to do is toss up some “these claims not evaluated by the FDA” language and you can sell snake oil with fantastic claims till the cows come home. Wtf?

        2. I repeat: There is NO such thing as a panacea.

          Heroin is pretty close. The side effects are a bitch though arrest, accidental overdose, constipation.
          There is an easy way to ameliorate the first two though it’ll never fly.

          1. Well, that and that nagging little craving to repeat the dosage every 6-8 hours. 😛

        3. As far as I can tell, the most valid medical use for MJ is as an anti-nausea drug. It apparently works really well for that, and for folks on chemotherapy it gives you the double bonus of giving you a little mellow in what has to be a very stressful situation.

          But I also think medicinal marijuana is besides the point, particularly since the loophole that should get it thus de-scheduled (IE, it has a medicinal benefit) hasn’t seemed to work.

          1. Medical Marijuana is also supposed to be amazing for Spastic diseases (MS, Parkinsons)

            And yes, it is weird the med benefit hasn’t caused it to be de-scheduled.

    2. What homicidal tendencies? He committed suicide by cop.

      If a programmer wanted to hurt the Pentagon you would hack their systems.

      If he wanted to kill someone he would have shot those cops in the head.

    3. I’m a PharmD and would like to second this post.

      Alcohol also is a lousy sleep aid IMHO, unless you want to get the wide-awakes at 3:30 AM (after your 11:00 PM nightcap) and subsequently become really sleepy in the thick of your workday.

      The wrong drugs are legal in this society. Just my opinion.

      1. Alcohol also is a lousy sleep aid IMHO, unless you want to get the wide-awakes at 3:30 AM (after your 11:00 PM nightcap) and subsequently become really sleepy in the thick of your workday.

        Agreed, there is a rebound effect as the GABA receptors in the brain readjust.

  12. “Although Lane thinks marijuana’s medicinal benefits are generally fictitious, [—]he is willing to let cancer and AIDS patients use it, as long as they’re dying.[—]”

    We should be kissing the ground upon which he trods, so thankful are we of his largess…

    1. More to the point, if being terminal is the standard for permission to use illegal drugs, then when i get cancer i want some acid. It’s cool, right, cause I’m dying?

    2. The Tea Party movement needs to mature and move to more stages than just defeating rinos in primaries and demwit and rethuglican statists in elections.

      It needs to take smarmy smug “journalists” out in the woods and beat them. And then set up citizens tribunals and guillotines. And I think that without toking.

  13. the ‘treatment’ of a wide range of real maladies with a spurious ‘medicine’…that might be ineffective or actually harmful.

    Sounds to me just like the prescription meds for depression. But hey, if they give you suicidal thoughts, just call your doctor. Cause you’ll be thinking sensibly enough to do that……yeah.

    Anyway, I’ve come to the conclusion that depression is bullshit. It’s called life people, and it sucks. Man up and stick it out, or drink/smoke/eat and get by that way. Or just fucking kill yourself. But thinking its a disease to be cured is bullshit.

    1. For your considered and wise opinion.


  14. If Bedell had obtained whatever “effective treatment” psychiatrists thought appropriate but had nevertheless shot guards outside the Pentagon, would Lane have blamed that presciption for the attack?

    No. Clearly, the culprit in that situation would be a lack of national healthcare. Duh.

    1. Or possibly climate change?

      1. Def climate changeeeee haha.
        But seriously, Health care would have helped, you’re right.

  15. In a reasonable world, so long as marijuana use requires a prescription, it should have to go through the same trials as any other prescription medication.

    I’d rather see it treated like a vitamin or supplement, personally.

    I’ve never been a big fan of the medicinal argument. I know some people think that people oppose medical marijuana on the basis that people think it’s a back-door route to legalization–I’m actually a fan of promoting medical marijuana as a back-door route to legalization explicitly…

    Getting serious about medical marijuana looks like you could easily get associated with all sorts of quackery–and I’d rather be thought of as someone who was trying to bring some sanity to the justice system through the back-door than as a snake oil salesman.

    And look at the argument we have for decriminalization now! How many dispensaries are there in Los Angeles now? And how many of them have been the scene of a crime? …as opposed to people getting their marijuana on the street from some hoodlum? How hard of a choice is that to make?

    That’s an easy choice.

    1. Yup, easy choice. Shut those suckers down!

      Oh, sorry, you thought they’d make the sane ‘easy choice’. That’s so adorable.

  16. I thought he was killed by the security guards.

    1. Security cameras clearly show the guns leaving the guards’ holsters on their own. So it was the guns, not the guards, that killed him. More support for gun control….wait, what?

  17. It was not Marijuana. It was a bullet to the skull at high velocity that killed John Patrick Bedell.

  18. Marijuana didn’t kill J.P. Bedell, bullets killed him. Honestly, doesn’t anyone pay attention to NORML and the NRA any more?

  19. This post does not tell the whole story. Bedell was a marijuana fanatic who thought marijuana was “one of the most useful plants known to humanity” and said that he looked forward to the day when “billions and billions of carefully cultivated, highly valuable cannabis plants [are] growing throughout the United States with complete security of property.” He said he envisioned “the use of cannabis as a monetary system.”

    When he got busted for marijuana, he used the card and said he used it for medical purposes. His psychiatrist said he was “self-medicating.”

    To Tony, what about the study that came out last week that marijuana doubles the risk for psychosis in young people? And the numerous other studies which lead to similar conclusions?

    My son also became a marijuana fanatic and exhibited violent outbursts, depression, anxiety, paranoia. He was fixated on marijuana to the exclusion of everything else, and wouldn’t hear of any criticism of his behavior. When he was caught, put in treatment, and tested, after his withdrawal (30 days of insomnia and agitation) he became a normal human being.

    Substance abuse and reasonable behavior are antithetical, so using “reason” to argue that legalizing more psychotropic substances will improve society is advocating for the further decline of reason.

    1. Drink!

    2. Just because your son can’t handle his high doesn’t mean the millions of other people who can should live under the threat of jail for their actions.

    3. You could dramatically enhance your argument if you would just link to the study you reference, and perhaps if you tempered your “this guy was crazy, so was my son, therefore all” argument with a little sanity.

      Besides, if you argue that use equals abuse around here, it’s kind of a dead giveaway, isn’t it?

      1. Not to mention that if pot use truly caused psychosis, and wasn’t more of a correlational effect, well than you’d see a rise in Schizophrenia rates, as pot use gained popularity, wouldn’t you.

  20. My son also became a marijuana fanatic and exhibited violent outbursts, depression, anxiety, paranoia.

    Sorry to hear that, however the illegality of marijuana didn’t stop it, did it. Why should more of the same eventually work.

    When he was caught, put in treatment, and tested, after his withdrawal (30 days of insomnia and agitation) he became a normal human being.

    Great, I am glad he was helped, but would being thrown in prison with violent felons, possibly being raped, maybe getting AIDs or hep C, and having his employment prospects permanently ruined really be better for him? Better for society?

    No one is saying that marijuana (or alcohol, violence anyone) is not w/o problems, it is just that banning it does not stop it’s use and creates a whole host of other societal problems. It didn’t work for alcohol, for 2000+ years it has not worked for prostitution, it won’t work for marijuana.

  21. Bullets might have killed him and Pot might have made him a bit goofy but Libertarianism (of the Kooook variety) made him insane!

  22. Paxil,Zoloft,Ambilify,and on and on and on…… have way more worse effects while using with treating mental illness than cannabis! So say the article is right and this is the first non successful mmj treatment for a mental illness, dont look past the thousands of beneficial instances! Then go look at all the f#@kd stuff every one has done on the prescription meds the article writer is suggesting! Lets be adult and speak science, math, and truth….Not hysteria, propaganda, and ignorance. peace praise and blessings!

  23. Marijuana prohibition killed John just like it will continue to kill tens of thousands of people a day.

    “Marjuana prohibition” is actually Cannabis prohibition. Cannabis happens to be the most abundant most healthiest food source on the planet.

    That is the same planet where 35-50,000 die to poverty a day while the number one renewable resource is banned by the world’s smallest minority.

  24. Blame it on the marijuana, the conclusion is absurd to say the least. We will not know what was really going through Bedell’s mind because one of the officers blew his brains out.

  25. Sounds to me just like the prescription meds for depression. But hey, if they give you suicidal thoughts, just call your doctor. Cause you’ll be thinking sensibly enough to do that……yeah.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.