Traces of Marijuana Found in Trayvon Martin’s Body: Does It Matter?

News that the Florida teen's autopsy revealed trace amounts of THC shouldn't be misinterpreted to equate marijuana use with violence.

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Reuters

Trayvon Martin, in an undated photo released by his family

Among the voluminous evidence released Thursday in the shooting death of 17-year-old Florida high school student Trayvon Martin is a toxicology report showing that the teen had trace levels of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, in his blood and urine.

The evidence includes abundant new information: conflicting witness statements, an autopsy report showing that Martin, who was black, died from a single gunshot wound to the chest and medical records documenting that Hispanic neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, who will stand trial for second-degree murder, had a broken nose the day after Martin’s death. Yet the media is focusing on the marijuana findings.

That’s a mistake that only serves to distort an already contentious case. The levels of THC detected don’t reflect Martin’s character or even his state of mind the night he was shot. For one, they are so low as to almost certainly not be connected to recent intoxication:  1.5 nanograms of THC were found as well as 7.3 nanograms of THC-COOH, a metabolite of THC that can stay in the system for weeks after cannabis has been smoked. Immediately after inhaling, THC levels typically rise to 100 to 200 nanograms per milliter of blood, although there can be a great deal of variation.

(MORE: New Evidence — Trayvon Martin Had Drugs in His System)

“THC in blood or urine tells us nothing about the level of intoxication,” says Carl Hart, associate professor of psychology at Columbia University and author of the leading college textbook on drug use and behavior. “That would be like someone going to have a beer some evening, and when he goes to work the next day, you can find alcohol metabolites in his bodily fluids. That says nothing about his functioning.” (Full disclosure: Hart and I are working on a book project together).

Moreover, even if Martin had been stoned out of his mind, it wouldn’t predispose him to violence. “I have given hundreds of doses of marijuana to people in the lab, and no one has gotten violent ever and everyone has been able to respond to the situation in an appropriate manner, when given low or large doses and single or repeated doses,” Hart says.

The night of the killing, Zimmerman began following Martin, who had gone to a 7-Eleven to get Skittles and an Arizona iced tea during a break in the NBA All-Star game. Zimmerman told a 911 operator that he was worried about Martin because he “looks like he’s up to no good, or he’s on drugs.” He was informed that the police would handle the situation and that he should not take further action. Zimmerman didn’t heed that advice; an altercation ended with Zimmerman shooting Martin in what he says was self-defense. He was charged months after the Feb. 26th killing, following widespread public outrage over the perceived lack of an appropriate criminal justice response.

(MORE: Report Details Zimmerman’s Injuries on Night of Trayvon Martin Shooting)

“If people are trying to discount the acts of Zimmerman or excuse him because [Martin may have smoked] marijuana, they need to think about their own marijuana use and think about whether they ever get violent,” Hart says. “More than half the country has used marijuana and they really need to use some common sense.” The drug that has the strongest pharmacological link to violence is the legal one, alcohol.

And despite the fact that black youth are actually equally or even less likely to use — or sell — marijuana compared to whites, they are arrested for drug crimes at a rate ten times higher.  In New York City, a recent analysis found that 80% of those arrested for marijuana were black or Latino, despite whites outnumbering them by far.

(MORE: Study: Whites More Likely to Abuse Drugs Than Blacks)

As Michelle Alexander points out in her book, The New Jim Crow:  Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, our drug laws have become little more than a pretext for arresting, imprisoning and disenfranchising people of color in a way that is no longer permissible to do based on race alone.  Once someone is charged with a drug crime, liberty, property and voting rights can all be rescinded— in a manner that appears colorblind if you ignore the selective enforcement.

Says Hart: “If Trayvon was a white kid, we wouldn’t be here talking about drugs. George Zimmerman would have long been in jail.”

(MORE: Blacks, Bias and Marijuana: Did Drug Stigma Contribute to Trayvon Martin’s Death?)

Maia Szalavitz is a health writer for TIME.com. Find her on Twitter at @maiasz. You can also continue the discussion on TIME Healthland‘s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIMEHealthland.
20 comments
GaryLK
GaryLK

Maia your missing the  very obvious.  The piece that your missing explains much about why and how this happened that day to Trayvon and Zimmerman.  I 'm guessing that you never spent long periods  being stoned in your youth or you would be familiar with the syndrome.  It is also documented in the literature and  Cannabis withdrawal is included in the proposed revision of DSM-5.  

Martin was in Marijuana withdrawal.  The major symptom that occurs from the second day on is irritability, being short tempered, quick to anger.  This is most pronounced in withdrawal from a chronic pot high.  More careful through examination of Trayvon hair grow would reveal when and how, much marijuana had been in his body.  If your read the tweets and internet droppings of Trayvon his serious interest in marijuana appears unabated and a day without pot is not seen.

Martin is then walking around on a very short fuse and runs into a crazy ass cracker who is looking at him "funny".  If the choice is fight or flight, at this time fight has the trump card.

Withdrawal from drugs is the fuel that helped spark this conflict and  lowered the threshold for a conflict.  If Martin had been stoned as usual this would have not occurred, he would be to mellow/lazy to launch an attack.

The source of my information is from 5 decades of smoking pot on and off and keeping up on the subject literature. I have one friend I advise to prepare for a fight with his wife (possible divorce) if he stops smoking.

Chronic pot smoking has permeant negative effects on the brains of growing teenagers.   How many years has Trayvon's brain been eroding?

PeterLTomaino
PeterLTomaino

its plain and simple , this kid was a drug addict and just maybe if he didnt follow the lies on the web and people around him , he would still be alive today !

PrinceArtie
PrinceArtie

@PeterLTomaino he was never an addict & his blood shows he hadn't smoked pot up to 3-4 days beforehand with levels of THC being 1.5ng/ml...if he had smoked pot that day or before he would range from 100-200 NOT 1.5 proving he wasn't an addict in the first place...get educated before throwing the word addict around when you don't know the person.....

PeterLTomaino
PeterLTomaino

@PrinceArtie @PeterLTomaino 

why did he have any at all ?

there is no reason for him to be using it in the first place. Therefore he was an addict and a puppet as well . Following the lies the people like you seem to follow. Maybe if someone told him the truth he would still be alive today and not another kid dead ! 

Weed KIlls ! And he paid the price for it ! 

PeterLTomaino
PeterLTomaino

Then tell me this , why is it when I ask people that use it "why dont you just stop ? " they tell me , they dont want to and see no reason too .

PeterLTomaino
PeterLTomaino

@2013mitchells @PeterLTomaino 

blames the woes the people that dont want to become drug addicts . 

Yes it was dark 

yes this kid could have been an addict 

yes its the fault of people out there that claim weed is safe to use 

ask yourself , what reason did this kid need to do drugs in the first place ?

Maybe cause people like you telling him lies that weed is safe to use ?

in that case you helped kill this kid !! His blood is on your hands as well  

PeterLTomaino
PeterLTomaino

@2013mitchells @PeterLTomaino 

It people like you that help the youth to want to take up this habit !

WEED has really none or  little use , but the point is really this , why was there any trace in him at all ?

What medical need did he have ?

What other drugs was he planning to use ?

Was he planning to  break into other peoples homes to get money ?

There was a reason they had a watch group , homes were being robbed.

So you are for this kid smoking weed ? Well then you are just as guilty for his death as anyone else is , YOu could have pulled the trigger on the gun as well! 

there is you use for weed , you helped kill this kid as much as he did , enjoy the blood on your hand as well ! 

2013mitchells
2013mitchells

@PeterLTomaino By the way, what you just said was pretty dark. Thanks to the media and people like you an innocent kid who was wrongfully murdered is now being labeled as a dangerous drug user. People like you seriously should have no voting rights. I hope karma catches up to you, It's so easy and safe to presume he was a dangerous drug addict isn't it? You can't get much more spineless than that.

2013mitchells
2013mitchells

@PeterLTomaino You sound so ignorant, clearly you have no knowledge on the subject yet you insist on labeling weed as an addictive mass murdering drug. Some of its first uses were in 2700 BC as medication. You want to know why it's illegal? Hemp was jeopardizing major business tycoons in the thirties so William Randolph Hearst was sought out to label cannabis as a dangerous addictive drug. Whose Hearst? The head of a sensational newspaper whose job was to sway public opinion. Your clearly too lazy to read into facts yourself so you just regurgitate the same bs they've been teaching in health class the past 50 years.That would make YOU the puppet you brain dead moron. It's the person, not the marijuana. If this is seriously a deciding factor in the case then I have no faith in the system

FrothyRaypist
FrothyRaypist

@PeterLTomaino @JohnMasters Marijuana has been on this planet long before man and possibly the dinosaurs. Yet oxicontin, percocet, ambian, vicodan, demerol, etc, etc. These drugs have a less than a hundred years in existence and yet the US government says that it has very little scientific evidence of it's medicinal purpose, only deeming its recreational use as destructive! Weed might cause some damage to the lungs but them FDA approved drugs does far worse damage monkey man.

PeterLTomaino
PeterLTomaino

@JohnMasters those states that are making it legal, are starting to see more issues coming up , I wouldnt be surprised that they dont start pulling it soon !

JohnMasters
JohnMasters

If it's voodoo science, why are states LEGALIZING it?  You're the worst kind of imbecile, you're the kind that actually thinks they're pretty smart. I've got some bad news for you sunshine, you're about as sharp as a bowling ball. I pity your daughter for having the kind of jerk for a father that sends her to rehab for smoking a joint. People like you are exactly what holds our society back from making any sort of progress. In summation, Trayvon was NOT an addict, you're an imbecile who doesn't know what you're talking about, and reputable science backs up my case...do you know what reputable means? It means it's not voodoo science, it's the real deal Petey boy..

PeterLTomaino
PeterLTomaino

@JohnMasters Figures you use that voodoo science , Maybe you still need some help , I dont have ? I buried some good friend cause of weed ! So before you tell me anything that I dont know , People like you and this kid here are the root cause that they are dead ! 

You are the fool and will always be ! There nothing to prove otherwise . To many people die cause of fools like you ! I caught my child smoking a joint and i sent her to rehab and now she is much better a person ! My child avoids people like you and even helps the police to put dirt like you in jail ! SO before you can tell me anything , get help !!!!!!!! Then you have the right to say something or even comment on this drug addict kid !! But for now you are less then zero !

JohnMasters
JohnMasters

You sir, are the liar. I really don't care if you believe me or not. Research supports my claim. What's even sadder is you calling the kid a drug addict because he smoked a bit of pot, and not even recently at that, as the above article illustrates. You REALLY don't have a clue as to what you're talking about, and as for your claim of knowing too many people who've died from using it? BS!!! I don't believe YOU! This conversation is over, now go stick your head back in the sand and pretend facts aren't facts because you don't like them.


Read more: http://healthland.time.com/2012/05/18/traces-of-marijuana-found-in-trayvon-martins-body-does-it-matter-2/#ixzz2V5n9WFep

PeterLTomaino
PeterLTomaino

@JohnMasters @PeterLTomaino 

You could have fooled me , I know to many  people that have died using it ! And before you give me the line "No one in history has died using weed " I can tell you that is not true . They are starting to link heart attacks and many other ailments to weed that can end in death. This just another example why weed should be gone ! Maybe if he was told the truth about weed he would have never started to use it but to many kids like him read on facebook that weed is safe and does nothing bad ! Like the lie you are posting , using for many years and just stopped . I really dont believe you , the main reason I dont , is that everyday users dont stop . its sad that you have use his death to support that weed is really safe ! 

JohnMasters
JohnMasters

@PeterLTomaino Because they don't want to and see no reason to. I was a daily smoker for years....literally not missing a day. When I got a job that actually followed through on their random drug testing, I stopped....and that was that...no withdrawal symptoms, no cravings....if only cigarettes had been as easy to give up...people who think they need it are just that...they THINK they need it...there is no physical dependence, and the few studies that show otherwise were done by groups that are predisposed to be against drug use of ANY kind....reputable testing has supported my claims.