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Trooper's widow urges voters to reject legalizing marijuana


In this March 22, 2016 file photo, Reisa Clardy, the widow of Mass. State Trooper Thomas L. Clardy, holds a folded flag as she and her children watch balloons fly during his funeral in Hudson. As Massachusetts voters prepare to decide whether to legalize recreational marijuana use, the widow of a state trooper and father of seven killed when a driver high on marijuana barreled into his cruiser, is making an emotional plea against a ballot question that would legalize recreational marijuana. AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File

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BOSTON (AP) -- The widow of a state trooper killed by a driver accused of driving under the influence of marijuana is making an emotional plea against a ballot question that would legalize recreational pot.

Trooper Thomas Clardy, a father of seven, was killed in March when a medical marijuana patient crashed his vehicle into Clardy's cruiser. In a new web video, Reisa Clardy said she believes there will be more accidents and more fatalities if voters approve Question 4 on the Nov. 8 ballot.

The driver, David Njuguna, of Webster, has pleaded not guilty to manslaughter, operating under the influence of drugs and other charges in Thomas Clardy's death. When he was arraigned in May, Njuguna's lawyer, Peter Ettenberg, said Njuguna "absolutely denies he was under the influence of any drugs." Ettenberg declined to comment further Oct. 25.

Reisa Clardy said her husband was "a wonderful father" who always put his family first. She said his death changed their family's lives.

"My husband's not here anymore. Daddy's not going to come walking through that door one day," she said in the video.

Thomas Clardy had stopped a car for a traffic violation in Charlton when his cruiser was hit by Njuguna's vehicle. Witnesses said Njuguna's car swerved across all three travel lanes without slowing.

Prosecutors allege that Njuguna obtained three marijuana cigarettes from a medical dispensary for marijuana an hour before the crash.

In a statement, the Yes on 4 Campaign expressed condolences to Reisa Clardy on the loss of her husband and said Njuguna, if convicted, should be "punished to the fullest extent of the law."

Massachusetts voters approved a medical marijuana program in 2012 and previously decriminalized possession of small amounts of the drug. The medical marijuana law does not contain any specific language addressing impaired driving, but state law makes it illegal to drive under the influence of drugs, including marijuana.

Recreational use of marijuana is currently legal in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington state and the District of Columbia. Along with Massachusetts, voters in Arizona, California, Maine and Nevada will decide legalization measures next month.

Opponents of the Massachusetts question pressed their case that legalization would lead to more impaired crashes, citing research that marijuana use can affect peripheral vision and coordination and can slow drivers' decision-making and reaction time.

A recent study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that after Washington state legalized recreational marijuana 2012, fatal crashes involving drivers that had recently used marijuana doubled, opponents said at a Statehouse news conference.

Jim Borghesani, a spokesman for Yes on 4, dismissed the study as flawed, noting its authors acknowledged that the data did not reveal whether drivers with THC, the psychoactive chemical in marijuana, in their system were actually impaired at the time of a crash.

"Right now, police officers have every ability to pull over someone who is driving impaired and take them off the road," Borghesani said.

Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett, an opponent of legalization, said police and prosecutors lack an effective way of determining what constitutes marijuana impairment, though such tests are being developed.

"We are years away ... from an effective, standardized, court-approved roadside test to measure a driver's THC level, and even if such a test existed, there is no scientific consensus as to what level of THC in the blood constitutes impairment," Blodgett said.

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