Marijuana Prohibition Leads to Death of Young Man

On July 2, Eric Perez turned eighteen. On July 10, his family mourned his untimely death.

Mr. Perez suffered a medical emergency while being held at a detention center in Florida. Despite vomiting and crying for help, Mr. Perez was left to suffer for over six hours before receiving medical attention. Tragically, by the time he was seen by emergency personnel, it was too late. So what was Mr. Perez doing in a detention center to begin with? The non-violent act of possessing a small amount of marijuana.

On the night of June 29, three days before his eighteenth birthday, police stopped Mr. Perez for riding his bicycle without a night-light. Police searched Mr. Perez and found the marijuana. Mr. Perez was on probation for a “years old” robbery charge and was cuffed and sent to a detention center. It was in this detention center that he breathed his last breath.

Let’s engage in a thought experiment here. Say Florida had a taxed and regulated system of marijuana distribution for adult, non-medical use. In that scenario, Mr. Perez is never arrested for possessing a small amount of a relatively harmless drug. He may even be praised for choosing to ride his bicycle as opposed to driving a car. Perhaps he’s given a ticket or sent to drug education for underage possession of marijuana. Either way, in this hypothetical, Mr. Perez is not in jail during his medical emergency, thus providing him a better chance of receiving prompt medical attention. Mr. Perez could still be alive.

Even a policy that simply decriminalizes the possession of only a small amount of marijuana would have been preferable. Fourteen other states have already removed the possibility of jail time for possessing a small amount of marijuana and replaced it with a simple civil violation. If Florida were one of them, Mr. Perez would have been given a ticket and sent on his way. Again, all indications point to the fact that had his medical emergency happened on the outside, he would have stood a much better chance of surviving.

Unfortunately for Mr. Perez’s family, we do not live our lives in hypotheticals. Policy decisions carry with them very real consequences. When it comes to our current marijuana policy, those consequences tend to lean towards the tragic — lost lives, destroyed families, and government waste. Until we replace our failed marijuana policies with more sensible and less destructive alternatives, we will continue to see stories like Mr. Perez’s.


71 thoughts on “Marijuana Prohibition Leads to Death of Young Man”

  1. He had been convicted of robery a year before. He wasn’t knew then to the legal system or the slammer. Being on probation one might be very correct in supposing that regardless of the legality of pot, it is a violation of his probation for “robbery”. He wouldn’t be in compliane if he had pot or alcohol or meth, regardless of the legalities involved as per individual choices.
    That big ego chip that told him he could rob and that he could smoke pot, that he could ride a bike regardless of regulations.
    His big ego even allowed him to stupidly think he was healthwise bullet proof. His ego hung him.

  2. I’d like to emphasize one part of the story where it states that the arrest was made due to him being on probation. Violation of Probation is a very serious offense. Who is stupid enough to go “Well I’m on probation, but I’m sure nothing bad with happen if I get caught with a substance considered illegal by the same institution that has me on probation for a criminal act…”

  3. This story has been twisted by mpp seems they do that alot i dont think its right the weed had nothing to do with his death it all comes down to the corrections centers not giving a crap about the people they are being paid to take care of hey criminals are people too the staff of this place should be tried for murder but im sure nothing will happen thanks uncle sam!

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  5. Sounds to me like the reason the kid went to jail may have been the fact that he had robbed somebody. At the very least, the police certainly found out about the other offenses only because he was riding without a light. So you’ve got three offenses–robbery, weed, and unsafe operation of the bike.

    Those are the reasons he was in jail. He broke the law, at least three times. You can be in favor of legalization and still not advocate breaking the law. You can make a case that there’s nothing immoral about smoking weed, however illegal it is (I pretty much agree), and that there’s nothing immoral about riding a bike at night without a light (probably not, but it was stupid and could’ve caused an accident, injuries, and/or death). But robbery? That’s not some benign decriminalization kinda thing. So the kid broke the law, with offenses ranging from the serious to the technical.

    The reason he died in jail was the failure of the jail staff. Period. Not marijuana laws, not mean policemen. Bad staff. What were the police supposed to do, ignore the law? Ignore the probation? What?

    In addition, if this was a private detention facility, all the motives are wrong. This is a growing threat that few people know about. Private detention is for profit; profit dictates that you cut costs anywhere and everywhere you can, including fewer monitoring devices, fewer staff, less-qualified staff, you name it.

    If you want to lay blame somewhere for the fact that he was jailed, lay it on the kid himself. You don’t have to break the law because you disagree with it. You can become part of a movement to change it, and obey it until it’s changed. You also don’t have to rob somebody or break other laws.

    If you want to lay blame for the death somewhere, lay it on the staff and/or protocols at the jail–and if that was a private facility, lay it on the legislators who allow this abomination that has no obligation whatsoever to the public interest, but only to profit.

    I happen to be for legalization, too, and I’m terribly sorry for the kid and his family. I’m just saying, there’s more to the situation than fits your agenda.

  6. Randy–

    I’ll bet five bucks this had nothing to do with “Uncle Sam.” This was either a city or county facility, probably not a state facility, and almost 100% certainly not a U.S. government facility.

    In fact, I’ll bet there’s at least a 30% chance it was a private, for-profit jail. (See earlier comment.) These things are an intolerable cancer.

    You want to blame somebody, blame politicians (especially, but not always, Republicans) who run on “all taxes are bad” mythology (and thereby underfund jails) or “privatize everything because government sucks” mythology (and thereby turn over legitimate government functions to private corporations who have no obligation to the public interest at all, whose only concern is profit–which means they’ll get by with the lowest level of staffing and security they possibly can).

    Nix that, actually: Blame the PEOPLE who vote for politicians like that and who give them a receptive audience, who indulge themselves in the myth of government-for-nothing. If there were no audience for this nonsense, politicians wouldn’t be able to use these kinds of appeals. Collectively, we get exactly the government we deserve–and most of them have learned that the something-for-nothing appeal is just like candy with crack in it.

  7. The whole prohibition thing is just a little old. What is it, almost 100 years now? For a drug that produces less problems and addictions than the one that was legalized back in the 1930’s:

    “Alcohol and alcoholism have been a contentious topic in America since the colonial period.”

    There will always be those who abuse a substance, hell, there are people who overdose on Tylenol for crying out loud, but Tylenol is not banned.

    Mr. Perez was out on his bike at night, probably scored a 1/4 of mids or regs and was taking it home to smoke in the privacy of his own home. Even if he did smoke it, vaporize it, or whatever in public, he would still cause less problems than some of the other drugs he could have been found with.

  8. The Constitution says that “probable cause” is required for the police to “request a search warrant”. It does not say that probable cause is sufficient to search someone. “No warrants shall issue, except upon probable cause, and shall particularly describe the premises to be searched, and the items to be seized.” All these neanderthals are so happy to ignore the Constitution I can only hope that some day they are arrested and abused because they had a tail light out, and realize that the Constitution would have protected them. But they don’t deserve the protection because they are sheep ready to be sheared.

  9. And why should the state be involved in this legalization of plant material, any more than it should be in my decision to read what I so wish. It seems to me that the knife cuts both ways, whether from a conservative or liberal-statist angle. Either way, what I choose to ingest, in the privacy of my own home, should not be a public health and safety issue, but it is.

  10. I just want to say that it’s about time to stop the madness. Those of us who have been studying and following this Marijuana or Cannabis issue knows that it dose not make good sense. For those of us who have been educated on this issue. Have, learned about the wonderful medical and industrial benefits of this plaint.

    Cannabis offers our country a great opportunity to bring about needed financial windfalls for our country and stop the madness that’s running rampant in our legal system. People are loosing there lively hoods just for smoking Cannabis, a substance that has no documented life treating or negative harmful side affects. A substance that you can’t overdose on, a substance you can’t become addicted to, a substance that helps people live a better life. Cannabis has more positive benefits to it than negative ones.

    There needs to be much more education about the benefits of Cannabis. The good that cannabis can really do for people and industry in America and the world, it needs to be made available to the people, now. America has been berried in a conspiracy of negative information and lies to keep this plaint illegal and off the market from the highest levels in our government. I believe there is a conspiracy to keep this plaint off the market and illegal, a plaint that actually dose more good than harm.

    Cannabis has been proven to have known medical benefits and huge commercial applications. Than, what’s the problem!!!!!

    Power to the People (Let them smoke Cannabis)

  11. OMFG so many smart comments….. so many dumb ones. So many different angles to see this story from. My first thought was that mabey he had the pot for his medical condition. I find weed to be very effective for GERD and other such things. How dose one sort the BS from the truth?? Listen to your heart and find what you believe, and be the change you want to see in the world. Actively persue the goal from conceptualization to actualization!! Blessed be

  12. “It also takes the focus away from Perez’s death, the abuses in the system and the corrections that need to be made to prevent this from happening again. ” If Cannabis, not Marijuana which is the name given to the plant by racist law makers, was legal like alcohol, a much more dangerous mind altering substance, this kid would have made it home that night and would have been able to get medical attention sooner. His parents would not have allowed him to suffer because he’s just another pothead teen. The staff at that facility should and deserve to be locked up themselves. As for the “the corrections that need to be made to prevent this from happening again”, stop the long disproven reefer madness! It’s insane to keep something addictive like alcohol that can and does kill people legal and not give people a safe alternative to recreational mind altering substances.

  13. I don’t really think that this is a very solid case for marijuana legalization. This was simply an avoidable tragedy, involving an unfortunate young man, because some security guards failed to remain alert and make the sound judgment to call 911 sooner.

    Though it’s tragic, this is hardly a solid reason for legalization.

  14. perhaps he could of called the people who really protect and serve communities, the paramedics, or a family member could of called. but he was arrested and died due to lack of medical treatment. the only thing this man did wrong that day was not have a reflective light on his bike. no one forced him to break the law? this website is here because it recognizes laws prohibiting marijuana recreationally is unjust, but prohibiting it medically is pure evil(it should be up to physicians not congressmen to decide what is medicine especially when there are medical opiates legal in all 50 states). this is a weak story to fire up legalization though, and the fact that he was connected to a robbery charge years before doesn’t help either, although i do not know the full story

  15. He was only 17 years old, and was arrested by yet another over-zealous cop. Why don’t these cops just join the Army since they so badly want to be the bullies they are? Do not tell me that NO ONE here has EVER broken ANY law cause if you do, I will flat out call you a liar. I feel so badly for his family.

  16. There are no manmade species. In the beginning, all species of plants were created, and God declared them all good. The U. S. government, in its infinite arrogance, decided it knows better. That’s why hundreds of billions of dollars have been wasted to control this plant–prohibition is a jobs corps program for jackboots, thugs, and people who hate every living thing.
    I’m discouraged by people who say, if he had not broken the law, he’d still be alive. This is the worst imaginable kind of cowardice, the voice of people with no moral sense. They seem to equate the State with the voice of God. Such foolishness gave the world Nazi Germany. Is that the direction we’re headed? Are Americans losing the ability to think like free people? It seems a large number of them are closet fascists already, just waiting for a dictator to emerge, and tell them how to think. Americans are historically the people with the courage to think for themselves, but I’ve seen a steady erosion of that spiritual heritage as the years go by. I’m afraid for us.

  17. I think the question here is, would a guy go to jail if he is missing a reflector on his bycicle while on parole? If no then if weed was legal none of this would have happen.

  18. OR the office could have pulled beside him and told him to stop riding in the street without a light and left it at that? Why did things get to the point where he was searched?
    Not really enough details to draw an educated conclusion but ultimately, had he not encountered an unneccessary diversion from his original path he would not have died not being able to get himself some medical help.

  19. Not to mention. Who knows, maybe just the entire encounter was what caused a serious episode. Would be enough to cause undo stress on anyone.

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