LSD

West Virginia Man Who Faced Life in Prison for Taking a Psychedelic With His Wife Got a Year Instead

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West Virginia Regional Jails

In my recent Forbes column about dangerous drug substitutions encouraged by prohibition, I mentioned the March 2013 death of Renee Honaker, a 30-year-old West Virginia woman who took "LSD" that turned out to be 25B-NBOMe. As I noted at the time, Roane County Prosecuting Attorney Josh Downey charged her husband, Todd Honaker, with first-degree murder for sharing the drug with her. But Downey ultimately had to drop that charge because the relevant statute, which makes delivery of a controlled substance resulting in death punishable by life in prison, applies only to prohibited drugs. At the time of Renee Honaker's death, 25B-NBOMe was not banned by West Virginia or federal law.

In an agreement reached last December (which I came across while researching the Forbes column), Todd Honaker pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter. He also agreed to cooperate in the prosecution of the chemist who supplied the 25B-NBOMe. Honaker was sentenced to one year in jail, nine months of which he had already served. His mother-in-law complained that the punishment was too light. "My disappointment with the legal system right now cannot be expressed," she told The Charleston Gazette. "It just seems like catching up with the guy that created the drug is more important then the life of my daughter."

Whatever you might think of Honaker's legal or moral culpability for his wife's death, equating it with first-degree murder was clearly absurd. He took the same amount of the same drug she did, which both of them evidently thought was LSD. He clearly did not intend to kill her; nor was her death a forseeable consequence of taking LSD, which has never caused a fatal overdose.

Yet Downey was prepared to put Honaker in prison for the rest of his life when he mistakenly believed the case involved LSD. When Downey discovered that the drug was actually a considerably more dangerous substance, but one that the West Virginia legislature had not gotten around to banning yet, he had to settle for a one-year sentence. If the issue is Honaker's responsibility for his wife's death, it makes no sense for such a huge difference in punishment to hinge on the whims of state legislators.

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  1. “When Downey discovered that the drug was actually a considerably more dangerous substance, but one that the West Virginia legislature had not gotten around to banning yet, he had to settle for a one-year sentence. If the issue is Honaker’s responsibility for his wife’s death, it makes no sense for such a huge difference in punishment to hinge on the whims of state legislators.”

    You’re right – the legislature needs to get to work banning *all* drugs besides caffeine, alcohol and tobacco – or heck, maybe *including* those three.

  2. Does he still have to live in West Virginia?

  3. Judge Posner’s good with this. Drugs rr bad, mmmkay?

  4. I’m sorry, but unless he held the woman down and forced her to swallow the drug, he’s not guilty of anything.

    The only guilt here lies with the fuckstains who support prohibition of any drugs so that people often do not know what they are getting.

    Ok, there definitely could be liability for the person who supplied the drug if he misrepresented what it was.

    This is utterly fucking ridiculous. What if my wife goes and buys me a 12 pack of beer and I fall off our 3rd floor deck and kill myself as a result of being too drunk. Is she liable? Where then do we stop with adults not being responsible for their own choices? We live in a world that is so fucking absurd that I sometimes think it has to be a bad dream.

    1. You are approaching enlightenment…do you want the red pill or the blue pill?

      1. FDA-MANDATED WARNING: Side effects include discovering that reality as you know it is a lie, setting yourself against giant robots and computer programs which resemble guys in suits. Other side effects include confusing plots, car chases, weird monologues by bearded guys, and wooden acting.

        1. OK, who gave Eddie acid?

      2. I think I already took the red pill. If that wasn’t the right choice, then I get to blame one person. I blame Barack Obama. I think that a year in prison and a few hundred hours of community service will do.

    2. Yeah, what we need is a law that applies the death penalty to any legislator who supports the criminalization of completely non-deadly drugs like LSD any time someone dies from adulterated or ersatz versions of the drugs sold on the black market.

      It is people like the woman’s parents who make me think that victim impact should have nothing to do with sentencing. Victims are often irrational and just want someone to be punished for their loss.

  5. But Downey ultimately had to drop that charge because the relevant statute, which makes delivery of a controlled substance resulting in death punishable by life in prison, applies only to prohibited drugs. At the time of Renee Honaker’s death, 25B-NBOMe was not banned by West Virginia or federal law.

    Wait, what happened to the ‘facsimile drug’ laws? I mean, if he *thought* he was giving her LSD, shouldn’t that be good enough? If he *thought* he was buying LSD he could have gone away for *actually* buying LSD.

    Fucking drug war man.

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