Connecting the Dots of Mass Shootings

Written by Ronald Kessler

The failure to stop the 9/11 terrorist plot was blamed in large part on a failure to connect the intelligence dots.

Now a similar failure is preventing the country from recognizing what is behind the massive increase in mass shootings: the increasing legalization and potency of marijuana.

The connection should be obvious. A new study backed by the National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that 30% of schizophrenia cases in men aged 21 to 30 are linked to cannabis addiction.

Meanwhile, marijuana has become far more potent than it was only a few years ago. According to the NIDA, smoking marijuana leads not only to schizophrenia but also paranoia and other psychotic disorders at a rate five times greater than among those who do not smoke pot.

The potency of weed depends on the amount of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the main compound responsible for the drug’s psychoactive effects. Based on random samplings of marijuana seized by law enforcement, the potency of pot has increased from about 4% THC in 1995 to more than 15% in 2021, according to the NIDA.

Newer products called marijuana concentrates can have THC levels as high as 85% to 90%.

It often takes a while for marijuana use by mass shooters to come out, either through autopsies that may or may not detect it or from random news reports based on media interviews with family members and friends of mass shooters.

Most autopsies do not include screening for the presence of cannabis. Nor are journalists, many of whom smoke marijuana, eager to ask about marijuana use for stories on mass shooting incidents.

But marijuana use has been linked to a number mass shooters, including the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter in Florida, who killed 17 people; the Aurora, Colorado, movie theater shooter, who killed 12; the Umpqua Community College shooter in Oregon, who killed nine; the Texas church shooter, who killed 26 people; and the Pulse nightclub shooter in Orlando, Florida, who killed 49 people.

A 2020 Secret Service study of mass attacks found that nearly half of the perpetrators had a history of substance abuse, including with marijuana and illicit drugs.

President Joe Biden and other Democrats favor stricter gun control when virtually none of the Democrats’ proposals would have stopped any of the mass shooters who have plagued this country in recent years. Instead, Democrats push legalizing marijuana, exacerbating the problem.

As a result of legislation introduced by Democrats, recreational use of cannabis has been legalized in 22 states, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia. Nine other states have decriminalized its use.

Almost universally, Democratic presidential candidates have favored legalizing marijuana at the federal level. Indeed, as Politico has said, “Legalizing pot is the new Democratic litmus test.”

Few in the media have chosen to spotlight the link between marijuana use and mass shootings. It is easier and less controversial to jump on the bandwagon and quote Mr. Biden and other Democrats railing against guns.

An exception is Fox News’ Laura Ingraham, who recently interviewed Dr. Russell Kamer, the medical director of Partners in Safety, a group that works with companies to provide drug tests for its employees.

“My colleagues in Colorado,” Dr. Kamer said on the show, “are sounding the alarm because that was one of the first states to legalize [marijuana use]. It’s practically a daily occurrence that kids come into the emergency rooms in florid, cannabis-induced psychosis.”

Democrats who push stricter gun control measures as a solution to mass shootings are “completely oblivious to what the legalization of marijuana has done and is doing to an entire generation of Americans — with violent consequences,” Ms. Ingraham said.

Even National Public Radio quoted NIDA Director Nora Volkow as saying, “In general, people think, ‘Oh, I don’t have to worry about marijuana. It’s a safe drug.’”

However, “The notion that it is a completely safe drug is incorrect when you start to address the consequences of this very high content of THC,” Dr. Volkow told NPR.

It took years for the intelligence community to connect the dots by eradicating the walls that prevented sharing of information between the FBI and CIA. It may take even longer for society to connect the dots between the increasing legalization and potency of marijuana and the shocking increase in the frequency of mass shootings.

Ronald Kessler, a former Washington Post and Wall Street Journal investigative reporter, is the New York Times bestselling author of “The Secrets of the FBI.” He began his career as a journalist in 1964 on the Worcester Telegram, followed by three years as an investigative reporter and editorial writer with the Boston Herald. In 1968, he joined the Wall Street Journal as an investigative reporter in the New York bureau. Ron Kessler lives with his wife in Maryland and have two grown children. Kessler’s website is