Lawyers for the California woman who avoided prison time in the killing her boyfriend after succumbing to a cannabis-induced psychosis are warning that extra potent marijuana strains from “illicit” providers can have unpredictable and tragic consequences, even in states where the drug is legal.
Bryn Spejcher, 32, stabbed her boyfriend Chad O’Melia 108 times after smoking an ultra-high potent strain of marijuana that her lawyers said came with a warning label she had not been privy to. Then she stabbed her dog and turned the knife on herself, surviving 43 self-inflicted wounds and multiple surgeries.
“The defense presented in court was not a ‘con job’ as some have described it,” her attorney Michael Goldstein told Fox News Digital. “The defense of ‘cannabis-induced psychosis’ was based primarily on the testimony of both renowned psychiatrist Dr. William Wirshing and prosecution expert Dr. Kris Mohandie.”
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Wirshing and Mohandie were among four experts whose work was cited in the trial. They both found that the explosive violence was “unpredictable” and “unforeseeable,” Goldstein said.
The specific strain contained a 31.8% THC level and a warning label that said, “Caution, for High Tolerance Users Only,” he added. According to the Yale School of Medicine, the average THC content in cannabis seized by the DEA was 4% in 1995 and had risen to 17% in 2017.
A search of SweetFlower.com, the website for a Los Angeles-based dispensary, found marijuana “flower” for sale legally with THC levels as high as 39%. Similar levels were available Friday from a local competitor, The Artist Tree.
Processed and concentrated products can contain up to 90% THC, Goldstein added.
“Nobody seems to want to address this issue,” he said.
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Months before the fatal encounter, O’Melia’s roommate also had an “extreme reaction” after smoking out of the same bong, Goldstein said. He suffered hallucinations and fear of death.
Spejcher had only smoked pot less than a half-dozen times prior to the stabbing, her lawyers said, describing her as a “naive user.” She worked at the UCLA Medical Center as an audiologist and is hearing impaired herself.
When asked about the difference between Spejcher’s case and a fatal drunken driving crash, Goldstein said the killer’s awareness of what she was getting into is the defining factor.
“As far as a DUI is concerned, that person knowingly and consciously drinks to excess and decides to get behind the wheel of a car,” he said. “In Ms. Spejcher’s case, she took a hit of what she believed to be a legal consumer product in the sanctity of Mr. O’Melia’s home as they sat on his couch with no plans to go drive home that evening.”
O’Melia provided the pot but not the warning on the label, he said.
“Mr. O’Melia was a well-documented, experienced and chronic user of high potency cannabis,” he added, citing evidence introduced in the trial. “That came with a responsibility. With that information, Ms. Spejcher could have made an informed decision and this tragedy could have been avoided.”
O’Melia’s father, who organized a protest outside the courthouse before sentencing, told Fox News Friday that the system has “completely failed” his son and the family when Spejcher received a punishment of just two years of probation, 100 hours of community service and no prison time.
“The judge didn’t do his job,” he said. “He didn’t do what he was responsible to do.”
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“Our prayers are with the O’Melia family and cannot imagine the unspeakable loss they have suffered,” Goldstein said. “Ms. Spejcher never envisioned taking a hit of a legal substance, spiraling into a severe psychotic state and stabbing another human being and then herself.”
Marijuana is legal in California for prescribed medicinal users over 18 and recreational users above 21.
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A Ventura County jury found Spejcher guilty of involuntary manslaughter in December.
The court last week handed down a sentence of two years on probation and 100 hours of community service.
“Ms. Spejcher is broken and remorseful for what happened to Chad,” Goldstein said. “She will never again live a normal life and her medical license and ability to help other deaf people is at risk.”