Last week, we told you about the Twitter spat that erupted after Dr. Christian Thurstone, an addiction specialist who's also a major player in Project SAM, a national organization fighting to prevent greater access to cannabis, shared a blog post in which he implied that marijuana contributed to -- and perhaps even caused -- the death of Michael Brown, whose shooting by a police officer caused weeks of rioting in Ferguson, Missouri.
Now, Thurstone has pulled the controversial post and put in its place an item insisting that his intentions had been "misstated and mischaracterized."
As we noted in our previous item, Thurstone has made a habit of making bold statements. Last year, as you'll recall, he predicted that marijuana users searching for bigger highs might start injecting THC. But "Death in Ferguson and THC" got an even bigger rise out of his critics. Here's an excerpt from the original salvo; note that we've included the toxicology report to which he refers at the bottom of this post.
A toxicology report strongly suggests 18-year-old Michael Brown used cannabis shortly before his Aug. 9 shooting death by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., and that he was a heavy marijuana user.
The teenager's death has sparked riots and protests and has raised very important -- and painful -- issues centered around racial disparities in law enforcement that must be discussed and addressed. Brown's death also should serve as a tragic reminder that marijuana is not harmless, that it is not just like alcohol or "safer than alcohol," that its consumption often leads to impairment that is very difficult for the public to measure -- also making it tough for the public to hold users accountable for the harm they've caused others. Marijuana users also could be vulnerable to aggression and attacks while under the drug's influence.
This attempt to connect marijuana use to tragedy is old hat for Christine Tatum, Thurstone's wife and a former journalist who's joined Thurstone's mission to warn the populace about cannabis.
In a 2013 post, we shared Facebook items by Tatum in which she dropped heavy hints about marijuana's supposed role in the Boston Marathon bombing, as well as the shootings at Columbine High School and the Century 16 theater in Aurora.
This time around, Project SAM shared a link to Thurstone's Michael Brown piece on its Facebook page, precipitating a Twitter back-and-forth between cannabis-reform advocates such as the Marijuana Majority's Tom Angell and Kevin Sabet, Project SAM's co-founder. Sabet quickly distanced himself from Thurstone's post, noting that it didn't represent the opinion of Project SAM, before explicitly denouncing it in a tweet to which Tatum objected:
@KevinSabet, it's not Dr. Thurstone's view, either, as you well know.
— ChristineTatum (@ChristineTatum) October 24, 2014
Despite Tatum's testy response, Thurstone subsequently removed the blog post from his website, albeit without changing the time stamp of the original article. The introductory passage of the new piece states:
We have removed the original blog post that was here discussing 18-year-old Michael Brown and marijuana. The article and our intentions were misstated and mischaracterized.
Following this intro, Thurstone quotes extensively from President Barack Obama's comments about the shooting, which do not mention or even allude to marijuana. However, he circles back to his main topic in the concluding paragraphs:
A recent development in this case, reported in the St. Louis Dispatch, was that Mr. Brown was likely under the influence of marijuana. At this time, no one can say for sure what role, if any, marijuana played in the tragedy. It's possible that we will never know.
When emotions settle, we hope we can begin a conversation of how law enforcement, schools, health care, prevention and other systems can prevent something like this from happening again.
Here's how Angell reacted on Twitter to the decision to pull the post:
— Tom Angell (@tomangell) October 25, 2014
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Here's Michael Brown's toxicology report:
Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.