By Laura Stack
My name is Laura Stack, and we live in Highlands Ranch (a suburb south of Denver). My 19-year-old son, Johnny, died by suicide on November 20, 2019, after becoming psychotic from dabbing wax (marijuana concentrate). You can’t become psychotic from “just using weed,” you say? How long has it been since you’ve been inside a marijuana dispensary? If it’s not within the last few years, you literally have no idea how different THC products are from the grass you may have smoked as a teen in the 70’s, 80’s, or 90’s. Back then, they were 2-5% THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive compound in marijuana), and today’s concentrates (all plant matter is stripped) can be 90+% THC. Marijuana is to dabs as cocaine is to crack.
Colorado legalized medical marijuana in 2000 and recreational marijuana in 2012, the first state to do so, when Johnny was 12 years old. In 2014, marijuana hit the streets. Johnny tried his first marijuana at a high school party at the age of 14 when a friend’s brother, who had a medical marijuana card, gave them some to try getting high. As parents, we didn’t allow marijuana use at all, but today’s concentrates, vapes, and edibles have no smell and are easy to hide.
We tried everything to help him, but once he turned 18, he got a medical marijuana card (even though he had no medical conditions), and he moved out of the house to continue to use. Before marijuana, Johnny was a happy, charming, intelligent young man with a 4.0 GPA and a scholarship to Colorado State University. After he burned through his savings, he stole our family dog and threatened to kill her if we didn’t give him money. He barely graduated high school with 4 Ds and then attended three different universities, because he had to drop out when he started using again and enter another mental hospital. The doctor at the mental hospital diagnosed him with “THC ABUSE – SEVERE.”
Three days before he died, Johnny told me and my husband at dinner, “I want you to know you were right. You told me marijuana would hurt my brain. Marijuana has ruined my mind and my life, and I’m sorry. I love you.” He jumped off the roof of a parking garage. We found his journal after he died. In his delusion, he wrote the mob was after him and one of his universities was actually an FBI base.
A year after his death, we started a 501c3, Johnny’s Ambassadors to educate parents and teens about the dangers of today’s high-THC marijuana on adolescent brain development, mental illness, and suicide. Johnny already has 3,000 concerned Ambassadors around the world. I was pleased to testify at various meetings and hearings on Colorado HB21-1317 regulating marijuana concentrates and share Johnny’s warning and story. This bill will make it harder for 18-year-olds to get a medical marijuana card who have no medical conditions. It was incredibly healing to stand with our team at the bill signing with Colorado Governor Polis and hold a photo of Johnny to honor him. If 1317 had been in place five years ago, I believe Johnny would still be with us today, as his friend’s brother and he wouldn’t have had such easy access to marijuana via medical marijuana cards. I hope other states learn from Colorado’s mistakes and put guardrails like these in place to save our youth.
My new book, The Dangerous Truth About Today’s Marijuana: Johnny Stack’s Life and Death Story, symbolically hits bookstores on International Dab Day, July 10. Don’t know what 710 Day is? I guarantee you your teens and college students do! July 10 is Dab Day, because 710 turned upside down spells “OIL” if you read it on a calculator. Why? Someone figured this out while they were high on cannabis oil or vape, which is one type high-potency marijuana concentrate. While 420 Day celebrates marijuana in general, 710 Day celebrates the high-potency extracts called “dabs.” At 7:10 PM, users will celebrate the holiday by taking a dab. Just make sure you know where your teens are at 7:10 PM on 7/10.
What is a dab? Dabbing involves extracting the THC (the part that gets you high) from the cannabis plant. Users place a small amount of this concentrate (shatter, Butane Hash Oil, hash, wax, budder, honey, etc.) into a heating element called a dab rig or vape pen and breathe in the cloud of cannabinoids produced as the concentrate sizzles. Today, high-potency concentrates make up about 30% of products in a dispensary.
What is the point of dabbing? Dabbing is a fast way to get very high, because it’s extremely potent, since it’s a chemical, not a plant. It only takes a second or two, and in that time a substantial amount of THC can be inhaled. The problem? If teens dab illegally, their brains are still forming, and marijuana has been proven to cause psychosis, mental illness, and increased suicidal ideation. Sadly, we know there is a direct correlation between adolescent marijuana use and suicide rates. Please read the research we’ve compiled. This may surprise you to learn if your child was suicidal like mine and used marijuana.
If you are a parent or grandparent with teens, please join us in educating parents and teens about the dangers of today’s high-THC marijuana on adolescent brain development, mental illness, and suicide. When your child or grandchild goes to a party, and a friend says, “Here, hit this,” will they know how to respond? Talk to your children about 710 Dab Day. Make sure they know marijuana isn’t harmless for their minds. Teach them what to do when offered marijuana. Tell them Johnny’s story. It just might save their lives.