Pothead Nation - A Year-end Follow-up

Pothead Nation
A Year-end Follow-up

© David Burton 2018


     Back on 6 December 2018, following the opening of the first two recreational marijuana stores in Massachusetts, I gave my opiniated view on the growing move to legalize marijuana. (Ref. 1) Presented below, verbatim, are five (5) articles from the Boston Herald of 11 December 2018 that concern some of the results of the increasing use of cannabis. You may want to take note of the fact that this is only one month after the opening of 2 marijuana shops. Many more pot shops are due to open here in Massachusetts in the months to come. The problems associated with the increasing availability and use of this drug are guaranteed to increase as well.

Pot Blamed for Mounting Highway Death Toll

     “When state trooper Thomas Clardy was killed two years ago, he left behind a wife and seven kids.
     “When four Stoughton High School pals were killed in May, four families were devastated.
     “In both cases, the drivers — a grown man and a teen — face charges, suspected of being high on marijuana where their cars veered out of control.
     “Now, a 5-year-old girl is dead and a 2-month-old baby is in critical condition, while two women and another child were also hospitalized. Prosecutors say the woman whose car slammed into them on a median strip in Revere Sunday night told police she had been vaping CBD oil — part of a cocktail of substances she had ingested in the prior 24 hours — and she was drowsy, afraid she was going to pass out.
     “These are a few of the examples of the mounting death toll on Massachusetts roadways where cannabis use is suspected.
     “Expect it to get worse as more legal pot hits the streets in Massachusetts.
     “Yesterday, Gov. Charlie Baker announced a public awareness campaign, with plans to train more police officers to recognize and deal with pot-impaired drivers — in the absence of any viable breath test — with the first recreational pot shops on the East Coast now open in Leicester and Northampton.
     “People swarmed the recently opened pot shops, forking over more than $2 million during the first five days alone for marijuana and pot-infused items like chocolate bars, lip balm and candy-like gummies.
     “It’s not all fun and games. Pot was the most prevalent drug found in drivers involved in deadly crashes from 2012 to 2016, according to data release by the governor’s office. THC — the chemical that makes users high — slows reaction times, impairs cognitive performance and makes it more difficult for drivers to keep a steady position in their lane, according to data released by the governor’s office.
     “David Njuguna had bought medical marijuana at a dispensary in Brookline about an hour before his speeding car struck Clardy on the Pike in Charlton, killing the 44-year-old trooper, prosecutors have said. Blood tests found pot in Njuguna’s system, according to authorities, and marijuana was found in Njuguna’s car.
     “Naiquan Hamilton, then 17, was “driving recklessly and under the influence of marijuana” in May when the car he was driving hit a tree in East Bridgewater, killing four other teens, according to prosecutors.
     “Autumn Harris, 42, told the cops she’d had one beer, had vaped CBD oil in her car and may have nodded off when she crashed her vehicle into five pedestrians Sunday night, killing a 5-year-old old. Harris said she’d also taken medications the night before and had little sleep.
     “Driving drunk or under the influence of pot or any other drug is reckless and can be deadly. With marijuana now so easily available, these tragedies are only going to increase.”
(Ref. 2)


     “A woman who said she vaped with a cannabinoid oil, drank a beer and was still feeling the effects of a sleep aid and muscle relaxant is accused of plowing into two families with her SUV in Revere Sunday, killing a 5-year-old girl and critically injuring the tot’s baby sister, prosecutors said.
     “Autumn L. Harris, 42, of Chelsea, wept at her arraignment Monday as Chelsea District Court Judge Matthew J. Machera ordered the Pipefitters Local 537 member held on $10,000 cash bail.
     “ ‘A lot of hearts are broken, especially hers,’ the woman’s mother, Maureen Harris, 71, said outside the courthouse. ‘I feel so bad for those children. I pray there’s a solution to what happened because she loves kids.’
     “Her daughter pleaded not guilty to charges of motor vehicle homicide by negligent operation and negligent operation of a motor vehicle — a 2015 Chevrolet Equinox her mother said she only recently purchased so she wouldn’t have to take a train to work in Allston.
     “Five-year-old Adrianna Mejia-Rivera was pronounced dead at the scene. Her infant sister was also hit and is listed in critical condition in intensive care, prosecutors said.
     “Assistant District Attorney Masai King, chief of the Suffolk District Attorney’s Motor Vehicle Fatality Unit, said Autumn Harris admitted to mixing a sleep aid and muscle relaxer the night before.
     “ ‘She did in fact ingest Melatonin and Flexeril, but she only had about two hours sleep and then she worked a full day on Sunday as a pipe fitter, and that she may have nodded off just prior to the crash,’ said King.
     “ ‘She also admitted to vaping CBD oil,’ King said, ‘which to my limited knowledge is either cannabis or hemp oil … I don’t have any further information to report to the court relative to that.’
     “Harris was tested by a police officer certified in drug recognition. Those results are still pending, King said. CBD is a chemical found in pot plants, but unlike THC, it is not psychoactive. It is sold at gas stations and health food stores.
     “King said state police responded to the intersection of Route 145 and North Shore Road in Revere just after 5 p.m.Sunday for a report of a crash involving one vehicle and five pedestrians.
     “A beer can was found underneath the vehicle. However, the breathalyzer he said Harris submitted to was inconclusive because she was unable to properly blow into the machine.
     “ ‘The five pedestrians were standing in the median strip where there’s a crosswalk, waiting for the light to change,’ King added. ‘This defendant’s motor vehicle veered to the left and struck all five. Unfortunately, the 5-year-old victim was pronounced deceased at the scene. In addition, her 2-month-old sister was transported to Boston Medical Center with life-threatening injuries. There’s a chance that child will not survive.’
     “Maureen Harris said her daughter is “in shame.”
     “ ‘It’s awful,” she added. ‘I just want to hold her, you know? She’s probably suicidal at this point. I mean, wouldn’t you be? It’s terrible.’ ” (Ref. 3)


     “Police will still be on the lookout for stoned drivers, even though there’s no foolproof test yet.
     “Officers will continue giving roadside checks, similar to field sobriety tests, with different prompts to determine if the driver is on drugs, according to Walpole police Chief John Carmichael, who serves on the Special Commission on Operating Under the Influence and Impaired Driving.
     “ ‘If a person is high, we have to handle it,’ Carmichael said. ‘Are there tools out there that can make our jobs easier? Absolutely. Are there law changes that can make our job easier? Absolutely. That’s our job now is to enhance the tools we have but make it better so it’s more accurate and, when it does get to court, they have evidentiary value of each specific case to win the case.’
     “Officers can still log physical behavior of the driver: if they have glassy blood shot eyes, drowsiness, lack of coordination, lack of concentration. Those observations are all still valid, Carmichael said.
     “ ‘We just can’t testify in the same way we’ve done with alcohol,’ he added.
     “The Executive Office of Public Safety and Security is also working to increase the number of law enforcement representatives who are trained in the Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement (ARIDE) and Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) programs, which teach officers to detect drug impairment in drivers. There are currently 155 officers who are certified DREs and 1,2 who are ARIDE trained, officials said.
     “ ‘I’m going to suggest every police officer in Massachusetts be trained in ARIDE,’ Carmichael said.
     “State police are also wrapping up a pilot program, in conjunction with the Massachusetts District Attorney’s Association and a private lab, in which they took voluntary oral swabs from drivers to test for drugs. That study is being finalized.
     “ ‘The fact that there is no equivalent to the Breathalyzer for suspected drugged drivers is a challenge for law enforcement agencies across the country,’ said state police spokesman Dave Procopio. ‘We are hopeful that advancements in drug detection will rectify that.’ ” (Ref. 4)

Gov. Baker Seeks Crackdown on High Driving

     “The state has launched its first anti-stoned driving campaign in an effort to curb a feared jump in drugged drivers now that pot is legal.
     “Gov. Charlie Baker pointed to Washington and Colorado, two states that experienced an increase in car crashes and impaired driving when they rolled out ecreational weed, in announcing the assault against driving while high on Monday.
     “ ‘There is plenty of evidence that no one should drive when their impaired, period. Whether it’s alcohol or drugs of any kind,” Baker said. “If somebody is going to partake in recreational marijuana … they should not drive.’
     “The campaign, ‘Plan Ahead. Get a Ride,’ urges people to find a sober ride home from a friend, the MBTA, a cab or a ride-sharing service. It’s part of the national ‘Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over’ effort. The educational campaign will include TV ads, online ads in both English and Spanish, and transit advertising.
     “Marijuana was the most prevalent drug found in Bay State drivers involved in fatal crashes from 2012-2016, according to data from the state Executive Office of Public Safety and Security.
     “In 2016, impaired drivers killed 79 people – an increase of 19 deaths from 2015, according to the agency. Police, however, have no new way of testing whether or not a driver is under the influence of drugs.
     “ ‘I am concerned about that and that’s just a fact,’ Baker said. ‘At this point in time there is not a test associated with driving while high that will pass any kind of legal standard. That’s a problem.’
     “As part of the enforcement mobilization, the state is providing funding to the state police and 139 local police departments to conduct an impaired driving enforcement effort. It will include both patrols at frequent-incident locations and sobriety checkpoints.
     “ ‘Keeping the roads safe for all motorists as they travel this holiday season is a major priority for the state police,’ said Col. Kerry A. Gilpin, superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police. ‘Our troopers will be stopping any motorist putting others at risk.’
     “The Special Commission on Operating Under the Influence and Impaired Driving is due to submit a final report with recommendations for legislation to the clerks of the House of Representatives and the Senate by Jan. 1. They are set to meet again Friday.” (Ref. 5)

Drugs, Alcohol Deadly on Road

     “Drunken and drugged drivers are responsible for thousands of crashes every year, national statistics show:

  • Approximately one-third of all traffic crash fatalities in the U.S. involve drunk drivers.
  • In 2017, there were 10,874 people killed in drunken driving crashes. On average, more than 10,000 people have died each of the past five years in drunken driving crashes — equal to about 20 jumbo jets crashing, with no survivors.
  • In 2017, almost one in five children (14 and younger) killed in traffic crashes were killed in drunken driving crashes. Fifty-four percent of the time, it was the child’s own driver who was drunk.
  • Drugs were present in 43 percent of the fatally injured drivers with a known test result in 2015, more frequently than alcohol was present.
  • A national roadside survey from 2013 to 2014 found drugs in 22 percent of all drivers both on weekend nights and on weekdays.
  • Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — the chemical responsible for most of marijuana’s psychological effects — slows reaction times, impairs cognitive performance and makes it more difficult for drivers to keep a steady position in their lane.
  • Mixing alcohol and marijuana may dramatically produce effects greater than either drug on its own.
     SOURCE: National Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration”
     (Ref. 6)

  1. Pothead Nation, David Burton, Son of Eliyahu; Article 343, 6 December 2018.
  2. Pot blamed for mounting highway death toll, Jessica Heslam, Boston Herald, Page 4, 11 December 2018.
  3. FATAL MIX IN REVERE CRASH, Laurel J. Sweet, Boston Herald, Page 5, 11 December 2018.
  4. MASS. COPS ON LOOKOUT FOR STONED DRIVERS, Mary Markos, Boston Herald, Pages 6-7,
    11 December 2018.
  5. Gov. Baker seeks crackdown on high driving, Mary Markos, Boston Herald, Page 6, 11 December 2018.
  6. Drugs, alcohol deadly on road, Boston Herald, Page 7, 11 December 2018.

  27 December 2018 {Article 346; Suggestions?_17}    
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