Trayvon Martin, the boy who was shot and killed in Florida this past February, is at the top of ABC News with a headline blaring about his drug use:
- ABC News
"Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old who was shot and killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer, had the drug THC in his system the night of this death, according to new information obtained by ABC News," writes reporter Matt Gutman. "The autopsy report shows traces of the drug THC, which is found in marijuana, in Martin's blood and urine."
This is media's reefer madness at its finest.
We don't know how much THC or what sort of THC Martin had in his system. And that's essential to understand a story that is—let's be frank—framed around the implication that Martin was mentally unstable at the time he was killed. But let's look at the facts: If Martin had THC in his system, he might—might—have been baked. But we don't know if he was baked at all. ABC News reports only "trace amounts" of THC were in his system. But ABC doesn't tell us how many milligrams of THC he had in his blood or if it was active or inactive THC. Both are key facts left out of the story.
If it was inactive THC—sometime called carboxy THC, which can remain in the system for weeks—it wouldn't be psychoactive at all. It's just a metabolite. But let's say it was active THC. Let's suppose that Trayvon had consumed cannabis recently. If it was a "trace amount," then it was likely in the 1-10 milligram per milliliter range—which is so negligible as to be irrelevant when talking about seriously changing behavior. It is very, very unlikely that those trace levels could impair his ability to hear, to follow instructions, etc. And it is even more unlikely they could make him violent. And it must be said: We're talking about pot. We're not talking about PCP, or even cocaine or methamphetamine, the sort of drugs associated with irrational, risk-taking behavior that would escalate a confrontation to lethal force.
Rather, Martin was apparently one of over 15 million Americans who use marijuana every month. Does this article suggest that if any of those 15 million people are shot, the media can implicitly excuse the death because they had "trace levels" of pot in their system?
Lacking details and featuring so much amplification, this story is an irresponsible, cheap shot to grab clicks by questioning the wherewithal of a dead boy who can't defend himself. They're trying to imply that Martin was high on drugs when, in fact, ABC provides no evidence that he was high at all.
UPDATE at 5:10 PM: ABC News has completely changed the article to all but eliminate mention of drugs, focusing on other aspects of the case and switching the front page graphic. The THC reference has been moved from the first paragraph to the last paragraph on the second page (instead of the thrust of the whole story).