Sunday, November 30, 2014

A dangerous drug

There is plenty to say about Ferguson and the riots going on there.  It is yet another sad entry in far too long a list of young black men gunned down by police with no credible reason to think they actually posed a threat warranting such a thing.  As I have said in the past police officers should all be wearing recording equipment because we know it drastically reduces incidents like this one and it makes it so much easier to either exonerate officers who were actually acting reasonably or prosecute them when they were not.  The thing about this case that really is getting me riled up today though is the way marijuana is being used as a tool to support police action.

Michael Brown had marijuana in his system when he died, about 12 nanograms worth of THC.  Not a huge amount, but enough that he was presumably feeling the effects.  If you read sites like this without thinking much you might conclude that this has some bearing on the situation at all.  Looking at testimony in the case you see experts giving very convoluted statements meant to imply that this amount of marijuana is somehow extreme or dangerous.  Law enforcement tried to use this to suggest that Brown was more likely to be violent or unpredictable.

This is all ludicrous.  Marijuana isn't some new drug that nobody knows anything about.  Whether you are a seasoned stoner or a medical researcher your conclusions are the same - marijuana makes people relaxed, reduces pain, gives them the munchies, and makes them slow and stupid in higher doses.  Suggesting that somehow marijuana is likely to turn people into ravening beasts is no more sensible than saying "Well, the victim did go to Starbucks a couple hours ago, and you know what caffeine does to people..." except that caffeine is probably a lot more likely to make someone confrontational and marijuana is only likely to make them sit down somewhere comfy and daydream about nachos.

It is racism, plain and simple.  There isn't any more reason for mentioning the THC in Brown's system than there is talking about whether or not he drank a venti latte recently but people are happy to seize on any reason to justify his murder.  They talk about him being a petty criminal (true, but shoplifting isn't punishable by being gunned down in the street without a trial last time I checked), about him being belligerent (disrespect of cop is not a crime), and about him being high.  It is all a smoke screen for the real story, which is a young man being murdered for the crime of being black.


  1. My uninformed understanding based on Ferret's discussion of his own marijuana experience and I think one or two others is that it can make someone paranoid.

    I offer this only to suggest your marijuana experience may not be universal, though it is definitely more experienced than mine.

  2. It is entirely possible that marijuana can make you feel paranoid. However, that is well within the scope of 'any sort of drug can have any sort of crazy side effect' that we know is generally true. We wouldn't say 'well, he had caffeine, and you know that caffeine makes some people really weird' even though that is technically true. It still comes down to us treating marijuana as something uniquely dangerous rather than simply assuming the base case.

    Also one would assume that even when marijunana makes a person feel paranoid they don't typically attack police officers armed with guns. :)