Tuesday, July 28

Sandra Bland was "marijuana impaired" when she hung herself in a Texas jail

The toxicology report on Bland, whose seemingly inexplicable suicide led to obsessive media coverage, was released to the public yesterday.  She had so much THC in her system that a toxicology professor observed it was possible she'd used marijuana in the jail. From the Associated Press report today, via M Live (Woman who died in Texas jail may have used pot there):
HEMPSTEAD, Texas — An initial toxicology report for Sandra Bland, who died in a Texas jail cell three days after her arrest during a traffic stop, raises the possibility that she may have used marijuana while in custody, two experts said.
The amount of THC, one of the active components of marijuana, in Bland's system was 18 micrograms per liter, according to the report released Monday. That's more than three times the legal limit for drivers in Colorado and Washington, states that permit the recreational use of marijuana.
"I don't think it's possible to rule out the possibility of use while in jail," said University of Florida toxicology professor Bruce Goldberger, who reviewed the report for The Associated Press. Bland was impaired by marijuana at the time of her death, Goldberger said.
Bland, a black 28-year-old from suburban Chicago, was found dead in the Waller County jail on July 13. Authorities have said Bland hanged herself with a garbage bag, a finding that her family disputes. She was in custody after a traffic stop for failing to use a turn signal escalated into a physical confrontation with a white state trooper.
Robert Johnson, chief toxicologist at the Tarrant County medical examiner's office in Fort Worth, Texas, told the AP that a THC level as high as Bland's suggests she "either had access to the drug in jail or she was a consistent user of the drug and her body had accumulated THC to the point that it was slowly releasing it over time."
But, Johnson added, "I have never seen a report in the literature or from any other source of residual THC that high three days after someone stops using the drug."
Goldberger, who is also the president of the American Board of Forensic Toxicology, said Bland had a "remarkably high concentration" of THC for someone who had been in jail for three days.
He noted that while chronic users who stop using the drug will have higher concentrations than non-chronic users, "the concentrations do not persist at this level, at least in my opinion."
He defined chronic as someone who uses cannabis daily, sometimes repeatedly.
Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis declined to comment Monday on the toxicology report, saying final findings were still being prepared.
However, one of his prosecutors, Warren Diepraam, said last week that he wouldn't rule out the drug being smuggled into the jail.
"It may be relevant as to her state of mind to determine what happened on the street," Diepraam said. "It may be relevant to her state of mind to determine how or why she committed suicide."
A brief quote at Live M from another Associated Press report mentions that Bland's family does not accept the official cause of her death because they believe she wouldn't commit suicide, that she had everything to live for and was getting ready to start a new job at the time of her arrest.

If Bland was a chronic heavy marijuana user, it could be that her family didn't know her as well as they thought.  On the other hand, if she used marijuana for the first time in jail and wasn't familiar with the way it could work, she was unwittingly playing Russian Roulette. 

It would be the same if ordinarily, prior to her arrest, she had been a casual marijuana user who smoked the drug, but then ingested it in a food item that someone gave her in jail. Under that circumstance Bland might have had no idea how much THC she was taking into her body.

And, as the case of Levy Thamba illustrates, marijuana in edible form can be be deceptively slow in the onset of its effects, depending on the person's physiology. This can cause the person to eat an inordinate amount of the drug-laced food before feeling 'high.'  

But by the time the drug's effects have caught up, so much THC is in the person's system the high can be closer to psychosis.           


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