Bland's toxicology raises questions about weed influence and bail system

The release of the toxicology report on Monday from Sandra Bland’s autopsy confirmed what officials said earlier about finding traces of marijuana in Bland’s system.

But while officials say weed may have worsened Bland's existing psychological conditions, not all agree.

“It does not cause any kind of depressive or suicide tendencies, so I really don’t see a link between what you see on the blood test and what ultimately happened,” said Dr. Noreen Khan-Mayberry, a toxicologist and medical scientist.

According to Dr. Khan-Mayberry, it is unlikely Bland smoked marijuana the three days she was in jail. Dr. Khan-Mayberry also said that weed was in her system probably because she was a routine smoker. 

“The levels are most likely because she was slow to eliminate the metabolites from her system, and it's very common that that happens. It does not alarm me at all, and I really think it is not a factor,” said Dr. Khan-Mayberry. “Unfortunately, some people are trying to make a link that really shouldn't be made.”

Bland's death also re-highlights our bail system. Bland didn't have the  money to make her $500 bail, so she had to stay behind bars, until she died three days later. According to a report from the Office of Criminal Justice Coordination, in Harris County, 75% of the people in jail are presumed innocent, waiting to go to trial, detained purely because they can't make bond. Some just plead out.

“You think about this moral dilemma for a lot of people that get wrongly accused—would you rather wait in jail for 6 months to prove your innocence or get out of jail right now and just take a theft conviction on your record?” said Mark Hochglaube, the Trial Division Chief of the Harris County Public Defender's Office.

Advocates say the bail system is unfair for low-income defendants, that release should be based not on how much money you can cough up, but on the person's prior history, ties to community and the promise to show up on the court date, called a personal recognizance bond.

“Harris County needs to reassess its culture of not providing personal recognizance bonds to people,” said Hochglaube.

Along with the release of the toxicology report on Monday, the Waller County District Attorney’s office also announced that they are appointing a panel of independent prosecutors and defense attorneys to watch over the investigation and review the evidence.