The October arrest of then-eighteen-year-old Joshua Wittig in a fatal accident that killed John Page Hines, 33, was accompanied by allegations that Wittig was high on marijuana that he may have obtained by improperly claiming to be a licensed medical marijuana patient. But evidence that convicted Wittig of vehicular homicide showed many more substances in his system.
The accident took place just after midnight on October 1 in Thornton. According to witnesses, Wittig, driving an SUV, was headed westbound in the eastbound lanes of Thornton Parkway when he collided head-on with Hines, who was riding a motorcycle. Hines was declared dead at the scene.
Afterward, North Metro Drug Task Force Commander Jerry Peters told us: "It's our understanding that the suspect in the case is a self-proclaimed medical marijuana patient who didn't fill out all the paperwork -- that he got a doctor's recommendation from a Boulder clinic for back pain and then took a partially filled-out application to a dispensary.
"We're trying to see if there's a loophole in the system that hasn't been recognized where people are trying to buy marijuana illegally, or if this is somebody who's in the system who hasn't been verified yet," Peters added. "We're still in the investigative stages, but we know the medical use of marijuana is involved in the case."
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In the end, however, this question appears to have been a side note in the trial. According to the office of Seventeenth Judicial District DA Don Quick, Wittig admitted to "self-medicating" -- and he didn't limit himself to cannabis. In addition to marijuana, a toxicology report found that he was also under the influence of Xanax, Valium and Percocet at the time of the crash.
Since Hines's death, controversy has flared about Representative Claire Levy's legislation to set a THC driving standard -- a bill that was put on hold shortly after a blood test of Westword medical marijuana critic William Breathes showed that he was nearly three times over the proposed limit when sober.
But given the cocktail of medication in Wittig's blood at the time of the collision, the results of the trial -- he was found guilty of vehicular homicide DUI and vehicular homicide reckless, offenses that can lead to a four-to-twelve year sentence -- will be difficult for advocates on either side of the THC bill to use on behalf of their arguments.
More from our Comment of the Day archive: "Reader: Show compassion for Wittig, Hines families in medical-marijuana-related crash."