After Their 22-Year-Old Son Died, His Parents Claim Marijuana Was to Blame

A 22-year-old from New Jersey died suddenly in April 2017. And now, his parents are saying marijuana was to blame. But is this possible? Here’s what his parents had to say, plus what experts have to say about this drug that’s quickly being legalized throughout the country.

Michael Ziobro was found dead in his bedroom

Michael Ziobro was found dead. | Today via Facebook

Ziobro’s mother found the 22-year-old unresponsive on his bedroom floor. She called 911, and they attempted to revive Ziobro, but it was too late. Ziobro was described as someone who touched the hearts and souls of so many with his smile and love. Now, his parents believe they know what killed him, and they want answers.

Next: Here’s why his parents believe marijuana was responsible. 

His parents blamed the death on medical marijuana

A woman rolls a marijuana cigarette as photographed

His parents think the marijuana was the problem. | Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Medical marijuana was later discovered in Ziobro’s bedroom, and the autopsy revealed Ziobro had cannabis in his system. His parents are now saying the cannabis is what caused his death. “He was such an advocate,” his mother told Today. “He thought it was wonderful … Safe … And it ended up killing him.” But cannabis was not ruled as the cause of death in Ziobro’s report.

Next: Here’s what the medical examiner ruled the cause of death. 

A heart arrhythmia was the cause of death

Digital illustration of Human heart

Here’s what caused his death. | Hywards/iStock/Getty Images

It appeared that Ziobro had suffered a cardiac episode before he died. A heart arrhythmia was the cause of death. But the medical examiner said he’s unsure of what role, if any, the marijuana could have played in Ziobro’s death. According to Healthline, for a drug to be ruled as the primary cause of death, it needs to have caused the death through overdose. This was not the case for Ziobro.

Next: Experts aren’t so sure about Ziobro’s parent’s claims. 

But experts are quick to say that marijuana doesn’t cause fatal overdoses

Hand Holding Small Marijuana Leaf with Cannabis Plants in Background

Experts say marijuana can’t cause such a severe reaction. | OpenRangeStock/iStock/Getty Images

“It is well established in the world of medical literature that cannabis is incapable of causing death by lethal overdose,” Paul Armentano told Healthline. Armentano is the deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Plus, medical marijuana has shown to help those suffering from chronic pain and even seizures, and has not been shown to be deadly. However, Ziobro’s parents are not convinced.

Next: Research on marijuana and the heart is minimal, but it doesn’t look good. 

There has been very little research done on marijuana’s effect on the heart

Tweed employee Ian Johnston plants small seedlings of marijuana plants inside the Mother Room at Tweed in Smith Falls, Ontario

More research is needed before we can conclude how marijuana affects the heart. | Lars Hagberg/AFP/Getty Images

Since marijuana is still in the process of being legalized, there have not been extensive studies done on it — especially in terms of effects on the heart. One recent, but controversial, study about marijuana and heart health concluded that those who use marijuana have a three times’ greater risk of dying from hypertension than those who don’t use the drug. Marijuana increases heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen demand, according to the study. These claims still require extensive study.

Next: Here’s what experts say the real worry with marijuana is. 

But impaired judgment can potentially lead to death

A worker at a cannabis greenhouse at the growing facility of the Tikun Olam compan

Marijuana is known to impact judgment. | Uriel Sinai/Getty Images

The biggest concern with marijuana death has nothing to do with overdose or cardiac arrest. It has more to do with the idea of impaired judgment leading people to make deadly decisions. One man’s story made national headlines when he jumped to his death from the fourth story balcony of his hotel after consuming marijuana cookies. The main concern is that people who use marijuana could make decisions that they wouldn’t otherwise make while sober, similar to the way alcohol affects one’s decision making.

Next: Marijuana can also have these effects, but experts say they aren’t deadly. 

Marijuana’s psychoactive effects can be harmful, but not necessarily deadly

Packaged marijuana

Is marijuana deadly? Many don’t think so. | Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images

Since marijuana has been legalized in Colorado, emergency room visits have doubled. And it has mostly been tourists who are not extremely familiar with the drug. Those who have mental health disorders, such as anxiety and schizophrenia, are also commonly admitted to the emergency room. That’s because marijuana can sometimes have negative psychoactive effects. But experts say that while these can be harmful, they’re not deadly.

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