Massachusetts Governor Focuses Effort to Combat Stoned Driving

The governor of Massachusetts is going after stoned driving after a state trooper was killed by a motorist who tested positive for having THC in their blood.
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Highlighting the death of a state trooper who was killed by a motorist who had THC detected in their blood, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker is renewing his effort to combat stoned driving.

Baker, a Republican serving his second term as governor of the Commonwealth, announced Wednesday that his administration has refiled legislation that would “update road safety laws by implementing uniform standards and promoting proven strategies to reduce motor vehicle crashes, and will implement recommendations made by the Special Commission on Operating Under the Influence and Impaired Driving,” his office said in a press release.

“This legislation aims to make the Commonwealth’s roads safer and save lives, and we are grateful to the Clardy family for offering their family’s name and support for this legislation, which will help us avoid impaired driving incidents in the future,” Baker said in a statement. “This bill will provide law enforcement officers with more rigorous drug detection training and will strengthen the legal process by authorizing the courts to acknowledge that the active ingredient in marijuana can and does impair motorists. The bill draws on thoughtful recommendations from a broad cross-section of stakeholders, and we look forward to working with our legislative colleagues to pass this bill and make our roads safer.”

The Baker administration said it has refiled the bill as “Trooper Thomas Clardy Law,” named for the late Massachusetts State Trooper Thomas L. Clardy, who in March of 2016 “was conducting a traffic stop on the Massachusetts Turnpike in Charlton when his parked cruiser was hit by a speeding motorist who swerved across three lanes of traffic,” and was later found to have THC in his blood.

Local television station WCVB reported that Clardy’s widow, Reisa Clardy, attended Baker’s announcement of the bill at Worcester District Court on Wednesday. 

“Our family has been profoundly impacted by the tragic loss of my loving husband. Our children lost their hero, a man who had love for his family and an unquenchable love for life,” Reisa Clardy said in a prepared statement released by Baker’s office. “We wholeheartedly support the implementation of these critical measures to improve public safety in the hope of sparing other families from our sorrow and preventing the heartbreak caused by a driver’s decision to get behind the wheel when under the influence of drugs.”

Recreational cannabis use has been legal in Massachusetts since 2016, a year after Baker first took office. 

Clardy Law is not the first time the Republican governor has taken aim at drug-impaired driving. As his office noted, the legislation was first filed in 2019, and is “based on recommendations issued by a Special Commission on Operating Under the Influence and Impaired Driving, which was created as part of the 2017 law legalizing adult-use marijuana, to develop a series of recommendations to mitigate the negative impacts of increased marijuana use in Massachusetts, including the anticipated increase of impaired driving.”

The commission provided a host of recommendations, which appear in the latest bill, including the following: “adopting implied consent laws to suspend the driver’s licenses of arrested motorists who refuse to cooperate in chemical testing for drugs, as existing law has long required for arrested motorists who refuse breath testing for alcohol”; “[a]dopting a statute authorizing courts to take judicial notice that ingesting THC, the active chemical in marijuana, can and does impair motorists”; “[p]rohibiting drivers from having loose or unsealed packages of marijuana in the driver’s compartment of a vehicle, under the same provision of the motor vehicle code that has long prohibited driving with open containers of alcohol; and “[e]mpowering police officers to seek electronic search warrants for evidence of chemical intoxication, as is the practice in over thirty other states.” 

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