Friday, February 23, 2018
News Roundup

At Zimmerman trial, marijuana testimony echoes famous Tampa killings

Testimony expected in the George Zimmerman murder trial about whether marijuana can make people violent brings to mind a seminal case that played out decades ago in Tampa and that influenced the way Americans think of the drug.

In October 1933, Victor Licata, a 21-year-old Tampa man, killed his mother, father, two brothers, sister and the family dog with an ax at the home they shared in Ybor City. Police found him crouched in the bathroom, mumbling incoherently. He refused to talk at first but later told police of a dream in which he hit six people with an ax.

A Tampa police detective told reporters that he had investigated Licata earlier and found he was addicted to smoking marijuana cigarettes. The Tampa police chief soon chimed in, saying that even if Licata's marijuana use "only had a small indirect part in the alleged insanity of the youth," he was "declaring now and for all time that the increasing use of this narcotic must stop and will be stopped."

The case became a cause celebre in the press and inspired the anti-marijuana propagandists as American alcohol prohibition came to an end. STOP THIS MURDEROUS SMOKE was the headline on the lead Tampa Times editorial a few days later. Several books, articles and films began to portray normal people driven to insanity by marijuana, including the 1936 film Tell Your Children, also known as Reefer Madness.

The sensational case was used by highly placed antimarijuana officials to steer the debate over whether marijuana was safe, including Federal Bureau of Narcotics Commissioner Harry Anslinger, who cited the Licata case often in pushing for the passage of the Marihuana Tax Act.

He was successful, despite the fact that Licata was later diagnosed with "Dementia Praecox with homicidal tendencies" at the Florida Hospital for the Insane, and doctors did not mention his marijuana usage. It was also learned that his family had a long history of mental illness, and Licata had been identified as mentally ill long before the murder.

The judge in the trial of George Zimmerman has ruled that the defense can introduce a toxicology report that shows Trayvon Martin had the active ingredient of marijuana in his system when Zimmerman shot him dead in February 2012.

The ruling was based in part on the testimony of medical examiner Shiping Bao. He testified last week that the level of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, in Martin's blood was so slight it would have had no effect on Martin. But he testified later that further research in preparation for the trial showed the drug might have impacted Martin's behavior in an unknown way.

The defense's question likely to be presented in State of Florida vs. George Zimmerman: Could Martin's drug use have caused the teen to attack George Zimmerman, putting Zimmerman in a position where he feared for his life and fired his gun in self-defense?

What the jury will make of this testimony is unclear. As more states move toward loosening laws to allow legal use of medical marijuana, the stigma associated with America's most-used illicit drug varies wildly.

The federal government's position: Research shows that chronic marijuana use may increase the risk of schizophrenia in vulnerable individuals, and high doses of the drug can produce acute psychotic reactions. But marijuana researchers say the drug works well to relieve certain kinds of pain and helps increase appetite.

Comments
Edward Peachey demands severance from CareerSource before stepping down

Edward Peachey demands severance from CareerSource before stepping down

The head of the Pinellas and Hillsborough career centers under multiple investigations into the way they report job placement figures says he has no intention of stepping down.That’s unless he is paid five months severance.In a letter from his attorn...
Updated: 1 hour ago
She’s taught at the Parkland high school for 14 years. Can she go back?

She’s taught at the Parkland high school for 14 years. Can she go back?

PARKLAND — She was afraid of what it would feel like, but she needed to know, so Melissa Falkowski pulled into the faculty parking lot. She took a deep breath in through her nose and climbed out of her car. She was back, in front of Marjory Stoneman ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
The real Jefferson Memorial has a statue, but this one has a jukebox

The real Jefferson Memorial has a statue, but this one has a jukebox

The building was in its infancy when a vintage Cadillac Eldorado rumbled up the construction path. Getting out, the driver demanded to know what the finished structure was intended for.Told that it would be a private home, the driver scoffed. The uni...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Editorial: Improve school security plans with gun controls

Editorial: Improve school security plans with gun controls

Gov. Rick Scott and key members of the Florida Legislature offered ambitious proposals Friday that would plug some holes in the state’s safety net, strengthen school security and spend up to a half-billion dollars in response to last week’s massacre ...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Updated: 1 hour ago
Terminally ill Valrico man dies a month after marrying junior high sweetheart

Terminally ill Valrico man dies a month after marrying junior high sweetheart

VALRICO — During his final few days, 19-year-old Dustin Snyder moved to a hospice house, surrounded himself with belongings from home, swam in a pool and visited the beach in Ruskin.Wherever he went, the terminally ill Valrico man had family beside h...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Updated: 2 hours ago
Tampa Downtown Partnership gets initial city okay to expand north

Tampa Downtown Partnership gets initial city okay to expand north

TAMPA — The Downtowner may be heading to Tampa Heights — but not until Oct. 1.That’s because the nonprofit Tampa Downtown Partnership this week won initial City Council approval to expand into Tampa Heights."Tampa Heights is becoming an important gat...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Medal haul well short of U.S. Olympic Committee projections

Medal haul well short of U.S. Olympic Committee projections

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — It was a sweeping goal, spelled out on a colorful, full-screen slide and presented to leaders of the U.S. Olympic Committee in a meeting last year. Sports executives in America targeted athletes on Team USA to win 37 medals...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Indiana man killed, two hurt as boats collide on Little Manatee River

Indiana man killed, two hurt as boats collide on Little Manatee River

RUSKIN — Two boats collided on the Little Manatee River Friday morning, killing one person and injuring two others, according to Hillsborough County Fire Rescue.Arthur D. Showley, 75, died in the crash, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Cons...
Updated: 3 hours ago