The regulation of marijuana in Massachusetts is in the spotlight after prosecutors say the man charged with killing a state police trooper after crashing into his vehicle was high and had marijuana in his car.
David Njuguna, of Webster, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to manslaughter and related crimes in the death of 44-year-old Trooper Thomas Clardy.
Clardy had stopped a car for a traffic violation in Charlton on March 16 on the Massachusetts Turnpike when his cruiser was hit by Njuguna's vehicle. Witnesses say Njuguna's car had swerved across all three travel lanes without slowing.
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Clardy was later pronounced dead at a hospital. The 30-year-old Njuguna was hospitalized with serious injuries.
Prosecutors allege that Njuguna had smoked marijuana shortly before the crash and that he purchased medical marijuana legally just an hour before crashing into Clardy’s cruiser. Njuguna's attorney, Peter Ettenber, says Njuguna denies he was high on the drug.
How this will impact a ballot initiative underway is still unclear but it is generating some debate.
Efforts are underway to get a question on the November ballot that would allow the use, possession, and distribution of recreational marijuana to anyone at least 21-years-old.
Those in favor believe it will regulate what is currently an underground market, creating jobs and new revenue.
Those against it say research shows regular marijuana use can lead to more dangerous drug use.
Governor Charlie Baker is among the opponents.
A statement from his office says, “Along with a bipartisan group of public officials, the governor is working hard to oppose the legalization of marijuana that would lead to expanded use as the Commonwealth fights the deadly opioid and heroin epidemic"
Njuguna was held on $500,000 cash bail.