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Marijuana Prohibition Takes A Young Washington Man’s Life


snohomish county jail prison deathNo Mother Should Have To Lose Her Son Because Of Marijuana Prohibition

On July 2nd Michael Saffioti, 22, turned himself into the Lynnwood police for having a misdemeanor warrant for his arrest for getting caught with marijuana. His own brother drove him to the police station that morning, where he got out of the car with a full bag of medications that he knew he was going to need in order to survive his jail sentence.

His mother, Rose Saffioti, is a nurse who assured her son that everything was going to be alright. “He was scared. He said, ‘Mom, I have a bad feeling.’ I said, ‘You are doing the right thing. They are going to take care of you.’ He replied, ‘I have a bad feeling that they are not going to take me seriously.'” In the end, Michael was tragically right.

Michael died in prison the next morning from bronchial asthma, according to the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office. He had a severe allergic reaction to milk that was in the oatmeal he had been given, which was listed as one of the contributing factors in his death.

“My motivation is justice for Michael, policies changed, protocols changed, so that nobody has to go through this whether they have allergies, are diabetic or have cardiac issues,” Rose Saffioti said. “Nothing is going to bring Michael back, but it can affect a change and that’s what Michael would have wanted.”

According to some inmates that had known Michael from previous encounters in prison, the jail staff might had already known about Michael’s condition, but failed to acknowledge it. He had earned the nickname ”Bubble Boy” because the staff had to wrap his meals in plastic to protect them from any potential contaminants. Which begs the question, what the hell happened?

The prison system has never been and will never be anywhere near close to perfect, but the fact that Lynwood police failed to properly assess Michael at booking (he had a bag of medicine with him, did they just toss them in the garbage?) which resulted in his unnecessary death.

This brings me to my larger point. This would never have happened if the war on marijuana wasn’t continuously feeding off the incarceration of America’s youth. From what his medical records show, Michael had lived with severe food allergies and respiratory problems since his early childhood. He had problems with drug abuse in his teens and early 20s. Family and friends say his legal troubles resulted from his medical problems, which caused panic attacks and led to his use of anti-anxiety prescription drugs and marijuana.

Imagine if Michael had legal access to the marijuana he probably needed to curb some of his anxiety. I am not claiming that would have cured his illnesses, but it might have saved his life.

Election day is coming up fast folks. If you live in Oregon, Colorado or Washington, this is just more reason to vote yes to end the failed marijuana prohibition that partially contributed to Michael’s death. It may have been allergies and mistreatment that were the direct causes of his death, but it was prohibition and a broken prison system that put him there to begin with.

Follow me on Twitter @SeriouslySamuel

Republished with special permission from the National Cannabis Coalition


About Author

Sam Chapman has dedicated the last seven years of his life to leadership, activism, progressive legal reform, and social media. He has been a crucial member of the End Prohibition Again Campaign, Students for a Sensible Drug Policy, as well as a strategic framer for Occupy Eugene. Beyond drug policy reform, Chapman has served as the Associated Students of the University of Oregon Campaign Manager, College Outreach Coordinator for the Measure 74 Campaign, and currently runs a social justice organization, the Interpretive Framing Group. Chapman’s expertise also includes his ability to develop diverse networks of people through the power of social media. Chapman seeks to challenge outdated status quos and policies through his public speaking, leadership, and social media skills.