In 1936 Reefer Madness was released, wherein marijuana use caused murder and insanity. Needless to say, it was roundly panned, mocked, and mostly forgotten. The reasons for this include, well, it being a really poorly-made film; but also because the portrayal of the effects of marijuana use were so laughably inaccurate. After all, if you know someone who is a heavy user, frantic and murderous is mostly the opposite of reality.

Unless, it seems, you are in France. In which case, smoking some pot is not only a defense against murder charges, but a ‘get out of prosecution free’ card.

France’s highest court on Wednesday ruled that the suspected murderer of Jewish woman Sarah Halimi was not criminally responsible and could not go on trial, provoking anger from anti-racism groups who say the verdict puts Jews at risk.

Please note, he was not found ‘not guilty’, they won’t even put him on trial. Because he claims he was high on marijuana when he murdered Sarah Halimi. The American media isn’t covering this, because…well…we don’t know why. A Google search for her name went to the 4th page before any American news outlet showed up…and it was a four year old article from when she died.

Despite there being no trial, there are certain facts that have been generally considered correct:

  • Kobili Traoré killed her, beating her for over an hour then throwing her out a window.
  • Kobili Traoré was a drug dealer and addict.
  • Kobili Traoré was heard to shout that he “killed the Shaitan (satan)”, and “Allahu Akbar” after throwing Dr. Halimi out of her window.
  • Kobili Traoré then returned to another apartment in the building, and recited Quran verses.
  • Kobili Traoré had been arrested multiple times for violence, but never been confined to a psychiatric hospital, which he was after being arrested.

France has a law in the books about mental conditions and murder – which is what they were using as the excuse here. This is, according to prosecution lawyers, the first time drug use has qualified for this defense. Unlike in the US, where a positive defense is required to use an insanity defense, France won’t even put him on trial.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Director for International Relations, Dr. Shimon Samuels, has said “Furthermore, this decision denies closure for the family and potentially creates a precedent for all hate criminals to simply claim insanity or decide to smoke, snort or inject drugs or even get drunk before committing their crimes.” I can’t say I disagree. Simply put, the refusal to even allow a trial supports Samuels’ statement.

Dismissing murder because of marijuana use? France’s judiciary needs to take a long hard look at itself, and maybe root out whatever is really the cause of this miscarriage of justice.