On Halloween night 2010, Jason Starn had just returned home from a local head shop in Modesto after buying more nitrous oxide "laughing gas" canisters when "my brain kind of froze."
Starn later told his lawyer he had lost all feeling from the rib cage down. His wife took him to a hospital, where doctors kept him two weeks and determined he had suffered a degeneration of his spinal cord related to his abuse of nitrous oxide, his lawyer said. The numbness lasted months, according to the lawyer, and Starn still needs a walker to get around.
In an unusual lawsuit on file in Sacramento Superior Court, Starn is going after the three stores where he bought the drug, in the form of little gas chargers that go by the trade name Whip-It.
One of the three shops, Smoke Island in Folsom, is the same place where a young Sacramento-area man bought dozens of Whip-It canisters last year, just before he gassed himself into a state of blurred consciousness and killed two people in a traffic collision.So what do the shops say?
"I think it's kind of a stupid lawsuit, personally," said a man who answered the phone and identified himself as the manager at the No Limit shop in Modesto.Right. But suits like that are brought all the time by the bottom-feeders of the legal profession. Can we get the pot industry on the side of tort reform?
"It's like going to McDonald's and suing them because you got fat because you ate it every day, or buying a nail gun and nailing your face, or your foot," said the manager. He declined to provide his full name, saying he wasn't authorized to discuss the case.
We hear something different from the other two shops.
Shops like Smoke Island on Folsom-Auburn Road and Still Smokin' on Elkhorn Boulevard are filled with pot pipes and paraphernalia, but employees at the two stores say the Whip-It canisters are not necessarily used to get high, and if that is the case, they know nothing about it.
"Whip-Its are used for cafes. That is for the whipped creams, every day," said a man working the counter in the Folsom shop who also declined to give his name.
If anybody is getting high on the "laughing gas," he added, "I have nothing to do with it."
At Modesto's No Limit, the manager said, "I understand there are people who want to get high off whatever," but as for Whip-It canisters, he said, "I'm not selling them for that purpose. I'm not telling them, 'You can get high off this.' "
Uh-huh. And what other kitchen utensils and supplies, unrelated to anything about getting high, are sold in the same store? None, I would wager.
In their answers to the complaint, the stores "said that if Starn suffered injuries, it was the result of his own negligence. They said Starn misused the product and assumed his own risk."
I have no sympathy for the head shops, but I have even less for Starn. He could not seriously believe that this kind of substance abuse has no health consequences. He should indeed be deemed to have assumed the risk.
Oh, BTW, N2O is a "greenhouse gas" 300 times as damaging as CO2.