A Denver District Judge didn't buy Richard Kirk's marijuana edibles excuse and sentenced him to 30 years in prison for second degree murder.

Richard Kirk, 50, was charged in April of 2014 in the shooting death of his wife, Kristine Kirk, at the couple’s home. Moments before she died, Kristine told 911 dispatchers that her husband began hallucinating after eating marijuana edibles and that he was going to get a gun. Richard Kirk originally pled not guilty to the first-degree murder charge, but changed his plea at the last moment to "not guilty by reason of insanity." His lawyers argued that Kirk was intoxicated with THC, marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient, at the time of the shooting. Ultimately, Kirk’s lawyers agreed to a plea deal with the prosecution: Kirk would plead guilty to second degree murder in exchange for a sentence of 25 to 30 years. This plea deal took both life imprisonment and the death penalty off the table. Kirk’s attorneys argued that their client turned to THC to relieve his back pain, not knowing he was at high risk for “marijuana psychosis” due to a history of schizophrenia in his extended family. Because of all these factors, the defense argued that Richard Kirk was “involuntarily intoxicated.”

"There were a myriad of factors that went into [the plea deal],” Prosecutor Helen Morgan admitted, the involuntary intoxication argument “was certainly one of them.” Sentencing was Friday, April 7 and Denver District Judge Martin Egelhoff sentenced Richard Kirk to 30 years in prison, the maximum allowed under the plea agreement. Colorado Lawmakers increased regulations on marijuana edibles after this tragedy, decreasing the amount of marijuana allowed in sweets and adding stricter labeling requirements. As a part of the plea deal, Richard Kirk allowed his wife’s parents, Marti and Wayne Kohnke, to adopt his three children. Last year, the Kohnke’s sued Gaia’s Garden LLC, the manufacturer, and Nutritional Elements Inc., the dispensary, for failing to list hallucinations, paranoia, and psychosis as side effects on the edible’s packaging.  

While keeping marijuana illegal, the FDA just approved a synthetic THC drug.