The demonization of marijuana, a plant that is safer and healthier than both cigarettes and alcohol, has never been so tragic as it is in the case of Philando Castile. Last year, Officer Geronimo Yanez shot and killed Castile in front of his family after pulling him over for a traffic stop on the road. He claims that the smell of marijuana coming from the car made him fear for his life causing him to act with a lethal defense method. Within hours of the shooting, Yanez told investigators from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, “I thought I was gonna’ die. And I thought, if he’s… if he has the… the guts and the audacity to smoke marijuana in front of the 5 year old girl and risk her lungs and risk her life by giving her secondhand smoke and the front seat passenger doing the same thing then what… what care does he give about me. And I let off the rounds and then after the rounds were off, the little girl was screaming.”
Conflicting Reports Over Cannabis Smell
According to the New York Times, prosecutor Jefferey Paulsen said that the camera on the dash, showed that Castile was “driving normally, pulled over quickly and was alert and courteous when talking to Officer Yanez.” Joseph Kauser, Yanez’s partner, claims that he did not smell any marijuana burning. Possession of 42.5 grams or less (1.48 ounces) of marijuana is a misdemeanor with a $200 in Minnesota. 6 grams in a baggie were presented as evidence in Castile’s possession. Driving under the influence is a criminal misdemeanor in Minnesota but having THC in the blood is not. While THC was found in Castile’s body, it could have been consumed hours before he ever stepped foot in the vehicle. There is no evidence whatsoever that Castile was driving under the influence. Even the smell Yanez claims was present was not detected by his partner.
Using Marijuana Demonization as a Defense
During the trial however, Yanez’s defense attorneys repeatedly claimed that Castile’s decision to possess or consume marijuana was the only crime and that Yanez did what was necessary in this case. They claim that Castile did not respond to Yanez’s request to show his hands or follow orders because he was “stoned.” The marijuana itself was only discovered in the vehicle after the shooting however and the footage from the dash camera shows Castile being courteous. He had a firearm, for which he had a permit, although Yanez’s lawyers claim that he wasn’t forthright about smoking marijuana when he applied for the permit and therefore it should not be regarded as being acquired legally.
A Violent Misunderstanding
Yanez was ultimately acquitted of all charges, making the story all the more disturbing. Marijuana is used for medicinal purposes in 29 states, helping those with Alzheimers’s disease, epilepsy, brain, trauma, pain, cancer, AIDS and countless other debilitating disorders. It is legal for recreational purposes in 8 states. The facts show that it actually reduces violent and aggressive behavior. The majority of Americans polled believe that it should be legalized. Yet tragedies such as these are still occurring. Castile is not the only person to be killed or violated over marijuana use. It seems more than time for re-education to occur before anyone else gets hurt.