John Belushi was an actor and comedian that by all accounts was beloved by his co-stars in movies and on Saturday Night Live. But tragically, he died in 1982 at the age of 33. Ahead of the premiere of his younger brother Jim Belushi’s new Discovery Channel show Growing Belushi, here’s what you need to know about John Belushi’s death and how it inspired his brother to start a cannabis farm in Oregon.
John Belushi Overdosed on Heroin, But a Woman Was Charged For His Murder
On March 5, 1982, Belushi overdosed on heroin and cocaine at the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles, California. The official cause of death by the Los Angeles medical examiner was “acute heroin and cocaine poisoning,” according to the New York Times.
Dr. Michael Baden later testified that if Belushi had not consumed heroin on the day of his death, he would not have died. The testimony came as part of the hearing to determine if Cathy Evelyn Smith should stand trial for murder because of the role she played in Belushi’s death.
Smith was accused of injecting Belushi with the dose of heroin that killed him after she spoke to a reporter about that night and her interview was published in the National Enquirer. She was eventually charged with second-degree murder and 13 other drug-related counts, but a plea bargain lessened the charge to involuntary manslaughter and three counts of furnishing and administering controlled substances, according to the Los Angeles Times. Smith was sentenced to three years in prison but served only 15 months.
Her lawyer Brian Greenspan told People at the time that Smith “has been made out as a drug dealer, someone who lives off the fame of others,” but “what you’ve got here is an independent woman with ability and accomplishments of her own and a desire to pursue her own career.”
A confidant of Smith’s added, “If Belushi were alive today, I think he’d be disappointed with all his friends for not helping her.”
Jim Belushi Thinks Medical Marijuana Might Have Saved His Brother
Jim and John Belushi were two of four siblings born to Adam Belushi and Agnes Demetri, both Albanian immigrants. The four kids — John, Jim, brother Billy, and sister Marian — grew up in Wheaton, Illinois, a western suburb of Chicago. John met his future wife, Judith, in high school. They married in 1976 but never had any children.
Jim has said of his late brother that he suspects John suffered from CTE, telling FR 42 News that John played a lot of football as a young man and that he sustained “lots of concussions.” John struggled most of his adult life with drug use and Jim thinks that if medical marijuana had been a treatment option when his brother was suffering, maybe he would be alive today.
“But I believe what Dan Aykroyd says, ‘If John was a pothead he would be alive today. And we think the drug could have really helped him with this CTE, this suffering. This is one of my goals [with this new Discovery Channel show],” said Belushi.
The show is about Belushi’s “flourishing legal cannabis farm” that spans nearly 100 acres in southern Oregon, according to the Discovery Channel press release.
“Having suffered the loss of his brother John to an overdose – as well as having experienced his own journey of learning and healing with cannabis – Jim has become an outspoken advocate for the positive medical benefits of cannabis including pain management and improving quality of life. The series will shed light on Jim’s journey of self-discovery and the incredible effort it takes to build a legal cannabis farm with the dream of helping others thrive.”
“As they navigate the many challenges of this newly legalized industry, Jim and his ragtag team of farmers have an opportunity to follow their passion and find success in something they believe in. Joined by his cousin Chris and with appearances from Dan Aykroyd, Judy Belushi and a cast of misfits (including Jim’s own family), as well as a musical appearance by The Blues Brothers, Growing Belushi will take Discovery’s audiences inside Jim’s world and show the incredible effort it takes to build a legal cannabis operation.”
“We are always looking for a show that takes you by surprise and this one did – it’s fun and funny and has a lot of heart. I think people will see Jim Belushi in a whole new way after watching,” said Nancy Daniels, Chief Brand Officer, Discovery & Factual.
Growing Belushi airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on the Discovery Channel.