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Cannabis Use Disorder Blamed for a Bad Trip That Led a Man to Violently Assault a Woman

Emily Robertson

Reefer Madness 2.0: a man on LSD, violently (and with superhuman strength) attacks a group of people. Obviously it’s cannabis use disorder, or so the judge and attending physician conclude.

On August 25, 2018, Spencer R. Frederickson, 21, who had consumed a load of LSD earlier that evening, attacked a group of people in Northfield, Minnesota.

At his sentencing, this week, the judge blamed ‘cannabis use disorder,’ and what has followed is an exercise in selective reporting from main stream media. Add another cog in the wheel of the propaganda machine.

Depiction of LSD experience with melting skull against red background

The Incident

In late August, Fredrickson attended the annual Rainbow Gathering in Superior National Forest. If you’re not aware, this gathering is a group of people called the Rainbow Family of Living Light who meet in different forests to peacefully “discuss political and environmental issues, pray for world peace and celebrate life,” according to the U.S. Forest Service. The group doesn’t have a leader or specific organizational structure, but is rather a more egalitarian, peaceful community.

Frederickson disrupted that peace when he sexually assaulted a woman, attempted to choke her and violently force her jaw open. When others came to help, he bit off a piece of one of the defender’s fingers, and harmed others in his struggle. According to the Sheriff Office’s statement, he was showing “superhuman strength.”

When the group was able to get him away from the woman, they still were unable to calm him. He was then restrained with duct tape until authorities arrived. Apparently, even then he continued to attempt to harm himself and others, even breaking skin under the deputy sheriff’s gloves in an attempt to free himself.

Frederickson, who was charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct, first-degree assault, and assault on an officer, was admitted to a treatment centre. Judge Michael Cuzzo has ordered Frederickson admission to the Anoka Regional Treatment Center or the Minnesota Security Hospital until he is fit for trial.

young man handcuffed and shoved into police cruiser

How is This Connected to Cannabis Use?

It is evident the man was undergoing some sort of manic break. It turns out that he had consumed LSD earlier that day.  Hallucinogens, like LSD, are known for causing manic episodes that can, albeit rarely, result in violent attacks. Hallucinogens can cause serious delusions and psychosis.

Cannabis, which is what the judge implicated, even a full blown  ‘cannabis use disorder’ – is not known for manic breaks of ‘superhuman strength.’

At most, CUD can cause paranoia and social withdrawal – basically a much more extreme version of being high to the point of couch lock, where an individual’s ability to engage in social function and daily tasks is reduced. But it doesn’t cause violence. Quite the opposite.

Judge satirical leaning into camera and looking stern

The Medical Assessment

Despite this, the judge cited Frederickson’s CUD as the ‘cause’ … alongside pre-existing psychosis. No mention of the accused engaging with hallucinogens was mentioned. If this seems biased and inconsistent with medical research to you, you’d be right.

Yet, the judge is basing his order off the medical assessment of Frederickson. The attending doctor claims that the defendant is suffering from “cannabis use disorder with mild severity and other hallucinogen use disorder[s] with mild severity.” The doctor admits that there are other factors – the judge chose to focus on cannabis.


While there is no doubt that CUD requires more study and individuals with addiction issues should be treated, using it as the causation of this level of  violence and psychosis  reeks of Reefer Madness.

LSD Bad trip Skull disintegrating against black backdrop

In fact, articles that reported on the case, like Star Tribune, conveniently left off the consumption of hallucinogens until the end of the article. This same article claims that “Experts say symptoms of cannabis use disorder include persisting in harmful actions”. But these “harmful actions” are withdrawing from society and becoming unable to complete daily tasks – they’re self-harming, and do not involve violence towards others.

There seems to be an undercurrent of  backlash against the rise in cannabis legalization. As the stigma breaks across society as a whole, certain individuals in power use incidents of violence and dysfunction to illustrate the supposed dangers of cannabis.  Ex-Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, springs to mind.

As for the individuals caught in the cross hairs, like Frederickson, proper treatment for struggles with mental health issues would be a better road than focusing on a plant that, at worst, would have caused him to sleep through the Rainbow Family forest meet up.

Emily Robertson

Emily Robertson has been writing freelance and contract work since 2011. She has written on a variety of topics, including travel writing of North America and the growing legalized cannabis industry across the globe. Robertson has a master’s degree in literature and gender studies, and brings this through in her writing by always trying to explore different perspectives. Born and raised in southwestern Ontario, Robertson moved to Glasgow, Scotland in 2016 to undergo her doctorate in Scottish Literature. She lives in the West End with her dog, Henley.

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