Driver charged in fatality crash after testing positive for THC

Posted at 3:23 PM, Jan 28, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-28 23:18:23-05

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A Clarksville man is facing several charges including Vehicular Homicide after he struck two work platforms occupied by four individuals on October of 2018.

Along with the homicide charge, Justin Clark, 31, faces charges of Vehicular Assault x 4, Aggravated Assault x 4, and Reckless Endangerment.

A blood sample taken from Clark also revealed the presence of THC, an active ingredient in marijuana.

"The use of cannabis does not increase your risk of crashing a vehicle," said Cecily Friday ,the founder of the Tennessee Cannabis Coalition.

Friday is talking about a study from a few years ago by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The study found that drivers who use marijuana are at a significantly lower risk for a crash than drivers who use alcohol.

"The Supreme Court in Arizona also ruled that the presence of THC in your blood is not an indication of impairment," Friday said.

However, that's not the case for 31-year-old Justin Clark; police said his blood test positive for THC.

On October 19, 2018, Clark was driving south on Riverside Drive in Clarksville in a Ford F-450 bucket lift truck when the lanes shifted for a construction zone.

While there was a patrol vehicle present with its lights on and cones positioned in the road to redirect traffic, Clark failed to travel into the designated lane. Instead, Clark struck the parked patrol vehicle, nearly hitting the officer who was on the scene.

Clark continued to drive his truck forward hitting a scissor lift which was occupied by Charles King III, 26 and Robert Bartz.

The vehicle then continued forward hitting a boom lift occupied by Charles King, 59 and Gerald Buck, 41.

Both Charles King and Charles King III were taken by ambulance to Tennova with injuries. Gerald Buck and Robert Bartz were transported to Vanderbilt Medical Center. Bartz later died from the injuries sustained in the crash.

"So, the fact that this gentleman had THC in his blood doesn't necessarily mean he was impaired; he could have consumed cannabis 30 days ago," said Friday.

The Tennessee Chapter of M.A.D.D. or Mother's Against Drunk Driving sent us a statement disagreeing.

State Director Phaedra Creed said, "When we see the statistics of increased fatality crashes in other states that have legalized marijuana it does make me worry about how we as Tennesseans can keep our communities and citizens safe. I believe that more research is needed to inform our citizens so that individuals understand the risk for themselves and others of driving under the influence of cannabis. MADD’s mission will always remain to protect our citizens and stop any impaired driving, whether it’s alcohol or any type of drug, legal or not legal.
MADD would encourage you to realize that if you feel different, then you drive different! Use a ride share program like Uber and keep yourself safe as well as those in our communities."