Evidence of Trayvon Martin's marijuana use was allowed by a judge, but not submitted in the George Zimmerman murder trial in Florida, which ended with a not guilty verdict on June 13. As a result, when the defense rested its case, jurors did not hear about the trace amounts of THC that were uncovered in Martin’s autopsy.
The limited value of the evidence likely played a part in the defense team’s decision. For one thing, the THC level (around 1.5 nanograms, according to the medical examiner) almost certainly indicates that any marijuana use by Martin didn’t take place on the evening that he was shot by Zimmerman and probably wasn’t even recent.
In addition, the idea that marijuana use might somehow trigger aggression on the teen’s part would not be easy to prove in court. In Time, Carl Hart, associate professor of psychology at Columbia University and author of a leading college textbook on drug use and behavior, put it this way: “THC in blood or urine tells us nothing about the level of intoxication. 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.”
The Zimmerman defense team certainly wouldn’t have been the first to demonize marijuana in Florida. Even before the 1936 anti-marijuana propaganda movie, Reefer Madness, Florida police made headlines by engaging in scaremongering about deranged pot heads. In 2013, Florida continues to favor a heavy-handed approach to marijuana enforcement.
Regardless of the reasons behind the defense team’s decision, the result is that everyone will be spared from the suggestion that a teenaged boy might somehow have deserved to die because of a joint he smoked a few days before his death. In Florida these days, that’s what passes for progress.