The Cannabis Global Initiative and NAACP Call Attention to the Racial Remarks of Dr. Christian Thurstone

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Dr. Christian Thurstone has claimed to be an expert on the effects of cannabis on developing brains. Numerous times he has been quoted for controversial remarks. The Cannabis Global Initiative (CGI) is concerned that the State of Colorado and numerous media outlets are allowing the racial remarks of Thurstone, a certified addiction psychiatrist, a medical director focused on adolescents with Denver Health’s Substance Abuse Treatment Education and Prevention Program, to stand unchallenged.

Thurstone has been outspoken on the dangers of legalized cannabis. This makes us concerned about the content on the front page of his website, which has a commentary about Michael Brown, the unarmed teenager gunned down by a police officer in Ferguson, MO. CGI finds his words insulting to the entire population of African Americans as he clearly states that Michael Brown was responsible for his own death due to the effects of cannabis in his system, and not the actions of the white police officer who shot him six times (see below)(emphasis added).

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.

The circumstances and details of Brown’s death at the hands of Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson are still unclear. What isn’t up for debate, according to the toxicology report filed by St. Louis County officials, is that Brown’s urine and blood showed the presence of THC, the active ingredient of marijuana.

Dr. Thurstone is a regular speaker in Colorado and has served on the state marijuana task force, and he considers himself a medical expert. He should be better versed than to make egregious comments concerning a dead black teenager that was gunned down by police. The contents of Michael Brown’s blood stream had nothing to do with his murder.

At a time when arrests for black men have skyrocketed due to cannabis possession, we find this comment by Dr. Thurstone racist and disgusting. As the governor’s announcement of the Marijuana Task Force noted, Thurstone was chosen because he is “a person with expertise in the treatment of marijuana addiction.” Is blaming the victim the basis of Dr. Thurstone’s expertise?

CGI is surprised that the State of Colorado would use a person like this as an expert on cannabis and its effects on the community.

“This is shameful,” states Wanda James, cannabis expert and managing partner of CGI. “How dare a doctor state that Michael Brown’s death was somehow caused by his use of cannabis, instead of the officer that gunned him down? The State of Colorado should be ashamed that they are using a man like Dr. Thurstone to continue to speak out against the Black community in disparaging ways.” James then added, “We are calling for the removal of Dr. Thurstone from serving on any task force or State of Colorado board including the prison system in which Dr. Thurstone is handsomely paid. We cannot allow racist sentiments from so called experts to serve the good people of Colorado.”

Shawn Coleman, a former marijuana policy cannabis policy staffer for U.S. Representative Jared Polis and current lobbyist for the cannabis industry, added, “Dr. Thurstone’s comments are a troubling reminder that the war on cannabis is not over. More troubling is his consistent use by the City of Denver and State of Colorado as policy consultant. Because Dr. Thurstone is a part of the prison industrial complex, I think Upton Sinclair can best explain why the good doctor can’t seem to grasp that marijuana in one’s system is never an acceptable reason for a young unarmed person to be killed by a cop.”

Mr. Coleman, who is also African-American, went on to say, “The advice of Dr. Thurstone resulted in the lab rat campaign for which I have called on the Governor’s office to apologize. The racial insensitivity is now a pattern and if Dr. Thurstone is to be a source, he should be excluded from any future policy making decisions.”

Rosemary Harris Lytle, State President of the NAACP CO MT WY called Thurstone’s comments a sign of “uniformed bias.”

“Dr Thurstone and Project SAM, have made efforts to reach out to people of color in attempts to defend prohibition despite the clear racially disproportionate impact of its enforcement. I don’t think these racially offensive comments about Michael Brown are going to aid that effort – especially since the Washington, D.C. branches of the NAACP and National Organization of Women endorsed Washington’s ballot initiative to legalize marijuana. Our Local NAACP chapters also supported the initiatives in Colorado, Washington, and Oregon. And the national chapter endorsed a federal marijuana reform bill.”

These statements continue to expose the race baiting and racial overtones of blaming the victim for potential criminal actions of the Ferguson police and beg the question why Colorado continues to have Dr. Thurstone on their payroll.

“At CGI, we are demanding that Dr. Thurstone is removed from all boards and commissions and is immediately removed from all payroll in Colorado,” says James. “We cannot tolerate the continued racial backlash of cannabis on our community.”

The preceding text was originally a press release email from the CGI. The original can be viewed here. Those interested in following the Cannabis Global Institute can do so on Facebook or on Twitter.

For previous Ladybud Magazine coverage of the Cannabis Global Institute, click here!

Photo Credit: By Ardfern (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0] via Wikimedia Commons