Marijuana Consumption Defense to Murder?

Last spring, Richard Kirk is alleged to have murdered his wife in their Observatory Park home in Denver.  He is charged with murder and recently changed his plea from not guilty to not guilty by reason of insanity.  Kirk’s defense team has called on various experts to make this altered plea.  Not guilty by reason of insanity basically means Kirk is admitting that he murdered his wife, but his actions should be legally excused because he was insane at the time.  “Insane” essentially means he did not know the difference between right and wrong.

The experts the defense has approached will give the opinion that Kirk’s use of edible marijuana triggered some sort of mental break or mental health issue that prevented him from knowing what he was doing. Blood tests show that Kirk’s THC level was 2.3 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood.  To provide a comparison, the presumptive level for driving while stoned is 5 nanograms.  However, one expert will testify that consuming marijuana in the edible form can cause more dramatic effects even though the amount of THC in the system is low.  Another expert will testify that Kirk’s intoxication led to delirium and psychotic like symptoms, but did not say Kirk suffers from a mental condition triggered by the marijuana use.  The third expert, who actually met with Kirk, says that as result of his mental condition, he may be vulnerable to distorted thinking.

Colorado is already at the forefront of marijuana law because it is one of the few states that allows for medical and recreational marijuana use.  This defense will shine a light on an area of the law that is still developing.  It will also be interesting because it is less common to see violent crimes committed while using marijuana as compared to other drugs, such as cocaine.  Although, when Kirk’s wife, Katherine, called 911, she said Kirk was hallucinating.

The proceedings will now be stalled while Kirk is sent to the state hospital to undergo an evaluation to help determine whether he was legally insane.  If the state hospital gives the opinion that Kirk was not insane, Kirk is still able to present an insanity defense and the case will turn into a battle of the experts.