Albany Man’s Tragic Death Shows That Marijuana Can Be a Very Dangerous Drug

A blog about murder, theft, and other wickedness.
Sept. 5 2013 12:39 PM

Albany Man’s Tragic Death Shows That Marijuana Can Be a Very Dangerous Drug

Illustration by Robert Neubecker.

Illustration by Robert Neubecker

Alleged crime: Possession of marijuana.

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Fatal mistake: Forgetting to duck.

The circumstances: The most successful marijuana growers understand the importance of protecting their crop. Nogoodniks want to steal the unharvested weed; government agents want to find and destroy it; gluttonous young rabbits want to gorge themselves on it. So you’ve got to have a deterrence strategy. Ideally that strategy will involve several burly men with Kalashnikovs, but a crude homemade booby trap will do in a pinch. Just be sure you remember where you set the trap, lest you end up like upstate New York man Daniel “Rooster” Ricketts, whose scheme to fortify his backyard marijuana patch came to a tragic end.

According to the Albany Times Union, Ricketts had protected his plants with a variety of mechanisms: barbed wire, a coyote trap, and—the pièce de résistance—“a fine, nearly invisible wire” that had been strung around the plants at neck level. The Albany County Sheriff told the Times Union that the wire “appeared to be the type used in pianos, but he said it's unclear what purpose it served as a security measure other than being dangerous to someone driving an all-terrain vehicle or motorcycle.” (Don’t laugh: The Albany area has long been terrorized by roaming bands of Harley-riding marijuana thieves.) If that was Ricketts’ idea, well, give him credit, because it worked. Unfortunately, it worked on Ricketts himself, last Saturday, when for some reason he decided to hop on his ATV and cruise around his backyard. He wasn’t paying attention to where he was going. One thing led to another. When hikers found Ricketts’ body, it was nearly decapitated. The sheriff noted that “alcohol may have been a factor in the accident.”

How he could have been a lot smarter: Ricketts could have refrained from drinking and driving, or, more specifically, from drinking and driving his ATV through a backyard that is strewn with dangerous booby traps.

How he could have been a little smarter: Used deterrents that weren’t taken straight out of a Road Runner cartoon. Maybe something involving sensors, or Doppler radar? Or an app? Ricketts would probably still be alive today if he would have guarded his weed with an app.

How he could have been a little dumber: He could have rigged an actual piano in midair to flatten unwitting trespassers, just like what happened to Eddie Valiant’s brother in Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

How he could have been a lot dumber: He could have used the wire to guard his oregano crop.

Ultimate Dumbness Ranking (UDR): You’ve heard the saying “Don’t get high on your own supply.” It’s a good one. “Don’t decapitate yourself on the piano wire you’ve strung to guard your own supply” is also a smart saying that growers would do well to heed. I’m loath to speak ill of the dead, but I suspect Daniel Ricketts himself would agree that he made a very dumb mistake here, bless his soul. 8 out of 10 for him.

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Justin Peters is a writer for Slate. He is working on a book about Aaron Swartz, copyright, and the rise of “free culture.” Email him at justintrevett@fastmail.fm.