State Trooper Thomas Clardy’s Widow Featured in Anti-Marijuana Ad
A new video from the campaign opposing marijuana legalization in Massachusetts features the widow of state police trooper Thomas Clardy, who died in a roadside collision in March.
Clardy was stopped at the side of the road on the Mass Pike in Charlton when a vehicle crossed three lanes of traffic and collided with his cruiser. Police believe the man who was behind the wheel of that car, 34-year-old David Njuguna, was under the influence of marijuana at the time.
“Obviously, I was very upset trying to understand how an adult, a grown man, could get behind the wheel after smoking marijuana and think that it’s OK,” Reisa Clardy says in the minute-long clip, alongside photos of her husband, her family, and her husband’s coffin. “With this bill, I don’t feel like we would gain anything from it. I think there’s going to be more accidents, there’s going to be more fatalities. You’re going to have families that are going to be without their loved ones because we’re putting people at risk. If it can happen to my family, it can happen to anybody’s. Why would we take this risk right now?”
Voters will decide whether to legalize adult use of marijuana for recreational purposes in Massachusetts via ballot question in November. The law would remove penalties for buying or possessing small amounts of marijuana and would allow marijuana retail stores to open in the state. It is currently legal to buy medical marijuana in Massachusetts, but it is illegal to drive while intoxicated. If the ballot question passes, driving while high would continue to be illegal.
Police say a test determined that Njuguna had THC—the intoxicating component of marijuana—in his system after the crash, although that alone is not proof he was high when his car drove into Clardy’s. Njuguna had also visited a medical marijuana dispensary one hour before the crash and purchased joints, police say, and investigators say they found found a half-burnt joint in his car.
The new video, produced by the Campaign for a Safe and Healthy Massachusetts, also references an apparent increase in the proportion of drivers with marijuana in their system involved in fatal crashes in Washington state, where recreational marijuana has been legal since 2012. A study from AAA, for example, found that number went up from 8 percent to 17 percent of fatal crashes in Washington between 2013 and 2014.
Experts have noted, though, that statistics on “drugged driving” can be problematic. THC tests don’t necessarily prove someone was impaired at any given moment, and studies of marijuana intoxication’s impact on crashes typically do not exclude cases in which a driver had both marijuana and other substances, such as alcohol or other drugs, in their system.
While police can test whether someone is drunk by using roadside breath-testing devices like a Breathalyzer, there is currently no such device for determining whether someone is high. There has been some progress on this front: Stanford researchers unveiled a system in September that they say may detect marijuana intoxication by testing for THC molecules in saliva.
Late Monday afternoon, the Yes on 4 Campaign, which supports legalization, responded to the emotional ad. From campaign spokesman Jim Borghesani:
We express our sincere condolences to Mrs. Clardy for the loss of her husband. Officer Clardy made the ultimate sacrifice for the people of Massachusetts. If the defendant in this case is convicted he should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.
Question 4 is a question of public policy and in order to make the right decision for Massachusetts, we must look at the facts. Question 4 makes no changes to state laws prohibiting driving under the influence of marijuana — that will remain illegal. Despite our opponents’ claims, there have been no studies from any marijuana-legal state showing increases in marijuana-impaired crashes or fatalities. In fact, in Colorado OUI marijuana arrests went down in 2015 compared to 2014 despite increased vigilance.
As Election Day comes nearer, the No on 4 campaign has published a series of video clips to challenge the messaging of its opponents. This latest one follows the release of the campaign’s first TV commercial, which portrayed a family whose town is overrun by marijuana outlets and users. Another 30-second video, which focuses on edible marijuana products, debuted on Thursday.