Marijuana & fatal crashes: Joshua Wittig update & man who died with 110 nanogram THC score

Thumbnail image for joshua wittig mug shot cropped.JPG
Big pic below.
Amid the controversy over a bill to set THC driving limits, and sponsor Claire Levy's views about a 5 nanogram or 8 nanogram standard, we sought out details on two of last year's most reported driving-under-the-influence-of-marijuana stories: crashes involving Joshua Wittig and Daniel Seilheimer. THC specifics are off-limits in the first case, which heads to trial soon, but not in the second.

As you'll recall, Wittig was arrested after an October 1 crash that killed John Page Hines, 33. Wittig tested positive for marijuana, and shortly after the bust, North Metro Drug Task Force Commander Jerry Peters noted that an investigation was underway to determine how he got his weed.

"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," Peters said at the time. "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. We're still in the investigative stages, but we know the medical use of marijuana is involved in the case."

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Commander Jerry Peters.
Where do things stand now? We checked with Krista Flanagan, spokeswoman for the 17th Judicial District Attorney's Office, which is handling the matter. She reveals that three charges were filed against Wittig on October 6: vehicular homicide DUI, vehicular homicide reckless driving, and second-degree assault with reckless driving causing serious bodily injury. All three counts are felonies, with the first ranked F3 and the second and third considered F4s.

According to this legal website, F3 sentencing ranges from a presumptive minimum of four years to a maximum of twelve years, with F4s typically falling within two to six years.

As for Wittig's THC level at the time of the crash, Flanagan says that information won't be revealed until the trial, which is currently scheduled to get underway on May 2.

And Seilheimer, a 41-year-old semi-tractor trailer driver from Colorado Springs? He died in a crash with a dump truck that also killed that vehicle's driver, George Mendoza, 52 -- and afterward, the Denver Post reported that marijuana had been found in Seilheimer's system.

But how much? We put that question to Commerce City Police Department spokesman Lt. Chuck Sonnier. He revealed that Seilheimer's blood showed 110 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood -- far, far beyond the 5 nanogram limit envisioned by Levy's bill, also known as HB 1261, or even the 8 nanogram standard she tried unsuccessfully to institute via amendment.

By the way, the Cannabis Therapy Institute notes that HB 1261 will be discussed by the Senate judiciary committee on Monday, April 11, when it's entirely possible the stories of Wittig and Seilheimer will be mentioned as cautionary tales.

Page down to see a larger version of Wittig's booking photo, as well as the Thornton Police Department release issued immediately after the accident.

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20 comments
Anthony Douthat
Anthony Douthat

 I really have no idea what you posted. Your sentences was pretty incoherent. And from what I did make out in your post seems to be all pretty much bull. I have seen people smoke weed and not a single one of them went for organic or natural foods. They went for chips, cookies, cold left overs, ordered pizza or anything else quick and normally pretty unhealthy. Even if there was apples, bananas, or anything like that in the house. They naturally went for chips or cookies for the most part. As for making you active and physical. That's just a bold face lie. The chemical effects of pot slows you down, makes you mellow and calm, which is a sedation effect, not a stimulant effect. Not to mention it lowers testosterone in the body. And calling insults, doesn't make your argument anymore valid, just makes you seem narrow minded.

Anthony Douthat
Anthony Douthat

I don't get this whole legalize marijuana for medical purposes thing. The only reason I can think that people want it legal is for the high. It can't be for pain, I mean there is ALOT of different, and legal, pain stuff out there people can take, there are pills of course, also creams, pain patches, compresses, heating pads, ice packs, other HERBAL, but LEGAL, things a person can take. How can one illegal plant work better then all that, if not for the side effect that makes you feel loopy?

tracy faust
tracy faust

The blog was absolutely fantastic! Lots of great information and inspiration, both of which we all need!b Keep 'em coming... you all do such a great job at such Concepts... can't tell you how much I, for one appreciate all you do!

Oo
Oo

110 nanograms? 5 nanograms? They are so full of shit... because I guarantee then that my level is never below 100 nanograms. Im not supposed to drive? That is so fucking stupid. There is no precedent. Accidents happen.

Police are going to be wasting their time that they could be spending going after DRUNK DRIVERS, who are the real threat and have a precedent to prove it.

Dumb. Fucking. Bitch. Claire. Levy.

Oo
Oo

This shit would be hilarious if someone hadn't been killed.

But seriously.

Mary J. Stanley
Mary J. Stanley

Michael:What was Selheimer's Blood Alcohol Content (BAC)? What other drugs were found in his blood?

CoreyDonahue
CoreyDonahue

This is all find and dandy but we should step back and think is HB-1261 even legal?

Answer NO! It is a violation of your fourth amendment rights to privacy as up held by the Supreme Court in Winston v. Lee, 470 U.S. 753 (1985) No. 83-1334. Specifically,

"A compelled surgical intrusion into an individual's body for evidence implicates expectations of privacy and security of such magnitude that the intrusion may be "unreasonable" even if likely to produce evidence.”

And we could also argue that the FERGUSON et al. v. CITY OF CHARLESTON et al. which states,

“A state hospital’s performance of a diagnostic test to obtain evidence of a patient’s criminal conduct for law enforcement purposes is an unreasonable search if the patient has not consented to the procedure. The interest in using the threat of criminal sanctions to deter pregnant women from using cocaine cannot justify a departure from the general rule that an official nonconsensual search is unconstitutional if not authorized by a valid warrant.”Let me repeat that, The general rule stated by the SC says, An official nonconsensual search is unconstitutional if not authorized by a valid warrant.

That's why they will take your license if you refuse a blood test because they cant force you to. Or we could think of this another way if you stand up for your fourth amendment rights in the face of HB-1261 then you will be penalized for asserting your rights. But we don't have any real use for the constitution any way.

mkeb
mkeb

It's a sad day when you see someone killed, whether it be by motor vehicle or gun shot. My problem lies in this new legislation of 8 nanograms. A typical joint consists of nearly 30 nanograms, give or take potency, THC level, etc. On top of that, it isn't as simple as testing blood alcohol level because Marijuana stays in your system a lot longer, even days after you've smoked/ate. CoreyDonahue has the right idea here, test for active THC, not inactive. Before these ridiculous laws are proposed, do research. If someone is at .08% (Blood Alcohol Level) they probably had roughly 3-4 beers/drinks, 8 nanograms doesn't even compare, that's like taking a hit or two, if that. Not to mention someone is a lot more functional when they are high than when they are drunk, or have been drinking. Do tests, take multiple test subjects, have them smoke, then drive, then smoke XX amount more, then drive, then compare the results.

anonymous
anonymous

With this crowd in the legislature an alternate approach is to point out that HB 1261 will be bad for Colorado businesses. What happens when our businesses start getting sued because someone with X nanograms wrecks their work truck and hurts someone, but their employer was only drug testing for "historic use" not current use? Every employer in Colorado will need to adjust their drug testing policy to accommodate this new 5ng=stoned standard.

anonymous
anonymous

I am just not sure how much mileage this "only 1 in 200 fatal accidents is weed-related" argument is good for. I'm sure we have laws on the books against oh say Goat Sodomy, that rarely get used, but we don't repeal them because Goat Sodomy is a terrible terrible thing to "encourage" and the law enforcement "perception" is that with the large recent increase in goats there have been a corresponding rise in the sodomizations...

Colin
Colin

Hey why not though? Our actions never have consequences. Lets go with 6 nanograms and have another foreign war. Bad decisions cant cripple our economy and ruin our way of life. We are bullet proof America! If I ever get arrested (again) for anything related to marijuana I swear I will save my pennies and let these idiots put my big non violent tax paying ass in jail on our dime for as long as possible. I spent two years and a lot of money last time just to get a dismissal that should never have been required. Next time I will let my tax dollars pay for me to stay. F*&%k it

Colin
Colin

now try finding two labs that return the same cannabis screen numbers. I couldnt. so maybe a few hundred or thousand people will get thrown in jail because they are poor. then a rich person will litigate, demonstrate that you can have (easily) 8 nanograms in your system 24 to 48 hours after medicating. that person will walk. the law will be seen for what it is. but it will be too late to get back all the lost time, money and too late to undo the damage to our citizens

Mary J. Stanley
Mary J. Stanley

The 110 ng/mL sounds outrageous. Westword, are you SURE this wasn't a URINE sample? Did you see the actual test???

Robert
Robert

Exactly, Corey. After disregarding the actual science, we are now ready to consider particular cases -- IF we're going to go there, we need to start by determining whether any other drugs (especially alcohol) may have been involved. I do not doubt that some people want a per se limit and believe it is reasonable without reference to the data, and they are those who will be most interested in opining about the role of THC in any particular collision.

CoreyDonahue
CoreyDonahue

Two crashes dose not science make. Also These two crashes are sad for the people involved but averaged out over last year with crashes that involved sober people it is very low. Or two stoned drivers were in accidents that may have been caused by marijuana through the whole year . This article also raises some interesting questions. First did the toxicology report say it was 110 NG/ML of active THC or did they include THC-COOH the inactive metabolite and shows past use rather than current use? Also why are they charging Wittig with DUI not DUID if marijuana impaired his driving? The most recent data 2009 from the NHTSA shows that 56 people died in auto crashes for Inattentive (talking, eating, etc.) http://www-fars.nhtsa.dot.gov/.... The Colorado DOT shows that 448 people were killed in auto accidents in Colorado in 2010. http://www.coloradodot.info/li...

So if the facts show that these two accidents were caused by marijuana consumption, which has not proven beyond a reasonable doubt, then two divided by 448 equals .004% of auto accidents in Colorado last year were caused by marijuana impairment.

With all that is going on in Colorado with our budget, schools losing funding, a nice crowd of educated unemployed youth, which I am proudly one, and loss of public services. Can Colorado continue to waste money on the reefer madness and try and legislate the maybe .004% of auto accident deaths that happened last year. Do we really want to live in a state that is trying to legislate an occurrence that is less likely to kill you than Falling Down 1-in-246? If we do then we live in a nanny state.

Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts

Mary, I didn't see the test, but this is the figure I was given by the Commerce City police spokesman -- and given that the individual in question died as a result of the crash, I've got to believe it was a blood analysis.

CoreyDonahue
CoreyDonahue

The guy died so it had to be a blood draw that is why we need to know if it was the active metabolite THC or if it included the inactive one THC-COOH.

Oo
Oo

Exactly. This is blatant reefer madness and will result in a lot of police officers with boners running around clubbing patients on the head.

anonymous
anonymous

0.45% but yeah. Clearly not an epidemic. If marijuana is the most commonly found drug in fatal accidents, compared to alcohol, than it has a remarkably safe record.

Robert
Robert

Let's not even go there. We have no more basis upon which to render a meaningful opinion in the instant cases than we would to try to draw general inferences from these two anecdotes. Note that virtually no prohibitionists and not that many people total even read this blog. Michael is getting a rise out of us.

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