Opponents of a Westminster Police drug-enforcement checkpoint note correctly that alcohol-related crashes like Department of Corrections officer Jason Ulrich's are far more prevalent those those involving narcotics. But the latter do happen, as shown by the case of Joshua Wittig, just sentenced to ten years in an incident that initially was said to be about medical marijuana but turned out to involve a wide range of self-medication.
As we reported at the time of Wittig's vehicular homicide conviction in May, the now-nineteen-year-old was driving an SUV in Thornton last October when he collided head-on with John Page Hines, a motorcyclist 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, though, the question of how Wittig obtained marijuana paled in comparison to the cocktail of other substances in his system at the time of the crash. Tests showed he was under the influence of Xanax, Valium and Percocet in addition to marijuana.
So excessive was this consumption that Wittig was reportedly sentenced last week to ten years and six months for vehicular homicide, plus a concurrent six-month jolt for reckless vehicular homicide -- punishment toward the upper end of the four-to-twelve-year option authorized by conviction guidelines.
The sentence indicates that judges take driving on drugs very seriously -- as does the Westminster Police Department.
More from our Comment of the Day archive: "Reader: Show compassion for Wittig, Hines families in medical-marijuana-related crash."