Sentencing Hearing Delayed for Man Who Killed His Mother While in ‘Cannabis-Induced Psychosis’

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Jason Dickout pleaded guilty to manslaughter last November.  His sentencing hearing was to begin in early September, but has been postponed to early next year pending the completion of a forensic assessment.  Dickout has remained in custody for almost a year since entering his guilty plea.

According to Dickout’s defence lawyer, psychological assessments completed shortly after his client’s arrest indicated underlying mental health issues and therefore the defence was willing to wait for a complete forensic assessment.  Due to a clerical error, the assessment will not be completed until the end of the year. 

WHAT HAPPENED?

In April 2017, Dickout spent the Easter weekend with his parents in northeast Edmonton.  After his father left for work and his mother went grocery shopping on Monday evening, Dickout “smoked two inhalations of dried marijuana” with his sister, Ashley.

Dickout began almost immediately “exhibiting signs of erratic and anxious behaviour, making other animalistic noises and talking nonsensically”.  Hoping to calm her brother down, Ashley gave him some prescribed cannabis oil, which he had never consumed in the past. 

Two hours later, Ashely called 911 to report that her brother was screaming and repeatedly stabbing their mother in the neck with a six-inch knife.

Police arrived to find Dickout naked from the waist down with blood on his face, t-shirt and his bare feet.  A knife covered in blood and a pair of men’s pyjama bottoms lay on the floor beside Dickout’s mother, Kathy Dickout.  Dickout was found behaving erratically and alternating between screams and hysterical laughing.  He said, “this was all for a laugh”.

Kathy Dickout died as a result of knife wounds, which had severed her jugular vein and carotid artery.

EMTs had to sedate Dickout and he was taken to hospital before he was taken into police custody and arrested.  He told officers, “I killed my mom.  She was so beautiful.  She was always thinking of me.  My mom deserves to live.”

Two doctors examined Dickout at Alberta Hospital and determined that he “experienced acute cannabis-induced psychosis, which was both self-induced and transient with the symptoms, with the symptoms abating within  a couple of days”. 

Two doctors examined Dickout and determined that he “experienced acute cannabis-induced psychosis, which was both self-induced and transient with other symptoms, with the symptoms abating within a couple of days”.

WHAT IS CANNABIS-INDUCED PSYCHOSIS?

Cannabis-induced psychosis is a possible side effect of cannabis consumption after recreational or chronic use of the drug.  Symptoms can include anxiety, illusions, visual and auditory hallucinations, impaired thinking, paranoia, an inability to focus, loss of touch with reality, disassociation, loss of motivation, disorganized thoughts, suspiciousness, grandiosity, catatonia, agitation and delusions.

Psychosis triggered by the use of cannabis typically begins suddenly and ceases soon after the psychoactive substances in the drug have left the body.  In some cases, there may be an underlying mental illness present that makes it more likely for the drug to cause psychotic symptoms. 

Research has proven that cannabis may cause a psychosis-like state in those that were already at high risk for psychotic disorders.  There may also be a genetic predisposition to cannabis-induced psychosis.  Researchers have found a gene called catechol-O-methyltransferase, which could make individuals more vulnerable to negative side effects of cannabis consumption.

The use of cannabis may also adversely affect medication compliance in those that are using prescription medication to treat psychotic illnesses. 

Studies have also proven that cannabis use in adolescence can be a factor that worsens the symptoms of serious psychotic mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia.

Most individuals who experience cannabis-induced psychosis are not dangerous.  However, there is a possibility that an individual who has lost touch with reality will engage in risky or paranoid behaviours.  They may also suffer from delusions of grandiosity which can lead to dangerous behaviours, such as reckless driving or jumping from a hazardous height. 

STUDY LINKS VAPED THC TO “DAMPENED” BRAIN ACTIVITY

New research from the University of Guelph found that rats exposed to a single dose of tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC (the vapourized psychoactive component of marijuana), experienced dampened brain activity lasting one week, similar to those suffering from schizophrenia and cannabis-induced psychosis.

The research team surgically implanted electrodes into the brains of eight healthy rats that had never been exposed to THC.  In a sealed rat chamber, the rats became exposed to pure vapourized THC or a saline solution.  The rats’ brain activity was then monitored. 

Lead author and assistant professor of neuroscience at the University of Guelph, Jibran Khokhar stated:

We found across all the regions [of the brain] the single exposure of THC changed the individual activities of these brain regions, but also altered how these regions communicate, or jive, with one another. 

Vaporized cannabis is gaining popularity and as more concentrates come on the market, we see an increase in wax and shatter – high concentrate forms of THC – and will probably be vapourized with these vape pens.

We will continue to follow Jason Dickout’s case and will provide updates in this blog when more information becomes available.

In the meantime, if you have any questions regarding charges laid against you or your legal rights, please contact the knowledgeable criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  Our skilled criminal lawyers have significant experience defending a wide range of criminal charges and protecting our client’s rights.  For your convenience, we offer a 24-hour telephone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice.