In an interview on FOX news Dr. Michael Baden, who performed the second autopsy on Michael Brown’s body, said the toxicology report revealed Brown had marijuana in his system when he was shot. Baden then went on to speculate that this potentially could have led Brown to act “crazy” and that he “may have done things to the police officer that normally he would not have done.”
The toxicology report hasn’t been released yet, and Baden says he got his information on marijuana in Brown’s system from the Washington Post. In the absence of a lot more evidence it’s pretty pie-in-the-sky to speculate on how anything in Brown’s system might have influenced his behavior. But as long as we’re going there, here is what former Seattle police chief Norm Stamper wrote about dealing with people who had smoked marijuana:
In all my years on the streets, it was an extremely rare occasion to have a night go by without an alcohol-related incident. More often than not, there were multiple alcohol-related calls during a shift. I became accustomed to the pattern (and the odor). If I was called to a part of town with a concentration of bars or to the local university, I could expect to be greeted by one or more drunks, flexing their “beer muscles,” either in the throes of a fight or looking to start one. Sadly, the same was often true when I received a domestic abuse call. More often than not, these conflicts – many having erupted into physical violence – were fueled by one or both participants having overindulged in alcohol.
In case you might be thinking my observations are unique, let me share the results of some informal research I have conducted on my own. Over the past four years, out of a general interest in this subject, I’ve been asking police officers throughout the U.S. and Canada two questions. First: “When’s the last time you had to fight someone under the influence of marijuana?” (And by this I mean marijuana only, not pot plus a six-pack or fifth of tequila.) My colleagues pause, they reflect. Their eyes widen as they realize that in their five or fifteen or thirty years on the job they have never had to fight a marijuana user. I then ask, “When’s the last time you had to fight a drunk?” They look at their watches. It’s telling that the booze question is answered in hours, not days or weeks.
The plain and simple truth is that alcohol fuels violent behavior and marijuana does not. Alcohol contributes to literally millions of acts of violence in the United States each year. It is a major contributing factor to crimes like domestic violence, sexual assault, and homicide. Marijuana use, on the other hand, is absent from both crime reports and the scientific literature. There is simply no causal link to be found.
Baden could just as easily speculate that marijuana in Brown’s system made him less likely to engage in violent activity, not more.