It is evident that the decision not to indict Darren Wilson for the death of Michael Brown was not popular. The hours (and days) after the decision were met with rioting and (mostly) peaceful protests. While not the most controversial of discussions surrounding the Ferguson case, there has been some debate over the role that marijuana played in Brown’s death.
The toxicology report included in evidence showed that there were 12 nanograms of THC in Brown’s system when he died. Moreover, the report states that for there to be this level of THC in Brown’s system, a high dose would have been consumed and smoked within a few hours of his death.
The problem with Brown having THC in his system is that high doses of THC can lead to hallucinations and an altered mental state—two conditions that are being blamed for Brown’s actions. What isn’t being taken into consideration is that such actions are not the norm of most individuals. In fact, forensic pathologist Michael A. Braden states, “ninety-nine out of 100 people taking marijuana aren’t going to get in a fight with a police officer.”
As Brown was a larger individual, to reach a concentration of 12 nanograms, a large amount of marijuana would have to be consumed—comparable to larger people being able to consume more alcohol.
The legal limit (in the two states where marijuana is legal) to operate a motor vehicle is 5 nanograms. However, some studies have shown that it takes more to cause true impairment—as the number of states legalizing marijuana grows, expect more studies.
The problem with the calculation of 12 nanograms of THC in Brown’s system is the thought that while you can safely operate a vehicle at 5 nanograms, but 12 will make you crazy enough to battle a cop. A small individual could reach 12 nanograms with a single joint. Moreover, if these people (those who reach 12 nanograms with a single joint) do not act the way Brown did, how can we (or the prosecution for that matter) claim that marijuana contributed to Brown’s death.
One could assume that the prosecutor used the fact that Brown had marijuana in his system as a ‘pharmacological explanation’ for why Brown acted the way he did; thus, vilifying marijuana.
Prosecutors in the Brown case are not the only individuals vilifying marijuana usage. In the hours after the unpopular verdict was released and the angry crowds massed, media reporters took to the streets to cover the events. One such reporter was Don Lemon who commented, “[o]bviously there’s the smell of marijuana in the air” as he walked among the demonstrators. This comment was quickly met with an angry response on social media.