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Marijuana Blamed For Death Of Careless Pedestrian In Vancouver, WA


vancouver washington pedestrian death marijuanaEvery day at lunch I leave my studio and walk my dog Roscoe to the park. This park is a block away from my studio, across a very busy Oregon Highway 213, otherwise known as NE 82nd Ave. Where my cross street meets 82nd Ave, I could just walk myself and Roscoe directly across the five-lane-with-center-turn-lane avenue. However, wanting to be as safe as possible, I walk him an extra block north where there is a designated crosswalk, complete with a center median island. At night I do this while carrying a bright blinking LED light.

In Oregon, when one steps into a designated crosswalk, the cars traveling in both directions are to stop until the crosswalk is empty. Yet nearly every day, as I approach that center median and look toward the oncoming northbound traffic, it is a guess whether they will stop for me and my dog.

So when I hear a tale of some pedestrian carrying no light who was hit at night on a busy wet five-lane road who didn’t bother to use a nearby designated crosswalk, part of me chalks it up to natural selection.

In Vancouver, Washington, last night, just across the river from Portland, such an accident occurred. But to follow the coverage from Portland’s KGW, you’d believe the only reason the pedestrian is dead is because of marijuana being legalized in Washington State.

A man who reportedly struck and killed a pedestrian early Monday evening was cited for DUI-Marijuana.

The driver was westbound on Mill Plain and the pedestrian reportedly stepped onto the street from a median…

The pedestrian was dead when officers arrived. The driver remained at the scene and cooperated with police…

A second driver nearly hit the pedestrian…

The arrest comes weeks after the possession of marijuana was made legal by a statewide vote in November. How police enforce pot-impaired driving laws has been part of the public policy debate since the vote.

This is just one of the KGW stories, but links there will take you to other alarmist stories about the Vancouver Police preparing for the onslaught of stoned drivers post-legalization.  You’d think that nobody had ever smoked marijuana in Washington before Dec 6 and police were just getting around to the idea that some may drive impaired.  Digging a little deeper at The Columbian gives us a better look at the details:

Vancouver police were called to the scene at 5:50 p.m. Witnesses said the man had been crossing Mill Plain in front of Safeway, carrying a grocery bag.

He crossed the eastbound lanes, stopped in a median, and then walked into westbound traffic.

A man driving a black Hyundai Sonata in the left lane slammed on the brakes to avoid hitting the pedestrian. The pickup, in the right lane, struck the pedestrian, witnesses said.

The man, who was not in a crosswalk, was dead when police arrived…

Vancouver DUI-M

My interpretation is that the guy was a bus rider. He went to the Safeway grocery store and was trying to catch the 5:43 C-Tran Bus. But rather than walk the extra 350 feet to go to the well-lit, signal-controlled crosswalk, he decided to take a shortcut to the bus stop by crossing in the middle of a wet five-lane busy road in the dark during five-o’clock rush hour.

We had a similar type of intersection down here on NE 82nd where it meets the MAX light rail line.  Two east-west and one north-south bus lines meet here and folks getting off those and the train who’d try to catch a connecting transfer would often bound across the five lanes of busy traffic, ignoring the crosswalks and causing accidents.  So ODOT but up a barricade wall on NE 82nd to stop that.

NE 82nd BarrierSadly, thanks to Washington’s new DUID law, the driver’s attorney can make all these same arguments about a reckless pedestrian ignoring traffic laws, a dark and wet night making conditions difficult, and a poorly-planned stretch of road construction virtually inviting mid-street crossing, but it won’t matter if his client’s blood shows more than five nanograms of THC, he was a stoned driver at fault. There may even be vehicular manslaughter charges to follow. Of course, it is possible that at 5ng (or greater), this driver was too impaired to drive. It is possible that a split-second better reaction time totally sober might have led to seeing the pedestrian in time.

Yet it is also possible that the driver might have looked down to change radio stations, picked up a cell phone call, or dropped the (tobacco) cigarette he’s smoking and still misses seeing the pedestrian. However, there are no blood tests for that, no way to determine what other reckless acts he was engaged in prior to the accident.

In other words, a pot smoker might be totally responsible, smoking only at home, allowing four hours to pass before driving, feeling completely unimpaired, and he’d have no clue what his blood THC levels are. But in a situation like this one, he’ll be culpable merely for being a pot smoker, while the radio-listening, cell-phone-talking, tobacco-smoking driver would be getting sympathy for being victim of an unavoidable accident and KGW would run a quick “pedestrian hit and killed” story and be done with it.

And yes… I’d still vote for I-502, even after this story. Get over it. This guy would have been charged with DUI-M even with the old law and if he’s got a double-digit THC reading, he’d have probably been convicted. I-502 is law now and we all agree the per se DUID part sucks – so let’s put all that anger and “told you so’s” toward repealing or amending it.


About Author

Executive Director: Russ Belville has been active in Oregon marijuana reform since 2005, when he was elected second-in-command of the state affiliate, Oregon NORML. After four years with Oregon NORML, Russ was hired by National NORML in 2009, working as Outreach Coordinator and hosting the NORML Daily Audio Stash podcast until 2012. Since then, Russ launched the 420RADIO marijuana legalization network and is the host of The Russ Belville Show, a live daily marijuana news talk radio program. Russ is also a prolific writer, with over 300 articles posted online and in print in HIGH TIMES, Huffington Post, Alternet, The Weed Blog, Marijuana Politics, and more.


  1. I am going to opine on this subject but first want to state that I am pro marijuana. There is nothing in any story I have read to corroborate your assumptions. When someone dies due to another person being under the influence of cannabis, it does not mean you need to make up a bunch of facts to justify how it had nothing to do with marijuana. I have always been an advocate of the safe use of marijuana. However too many misinformed marijuana users sully the data. For example: The CDC says no one has died of marijuana. So what? Does the CDC look for THC content in 100% of the deaths in the United States. Answer: No. In fact, they don’t look at 1/10th of 1% of the deaths in the United States. They also, do not test for THC.

    I think it is about time that marijuana users started to get real and realize that marijuana has many harmful attributes. Sure, I love the stuff. But I have found that the pro-marijuana crowd tends to be the most misinformed crowd since the Democrats.

  2. We are going to see more of this in the media , This has been a good source for the journalist ,

    hashtag “weed”

    lets wait and see what the tests say then we can argue!

    ‘gun control” has taken the media now so cannabis gets a short break!

    OBAMA has taken off the “no smoking sign” .. feel free to move around the country!

  3. 1,000,000 death from drinking and driving, but its ok to drink. I finally hear about an actual smoking and driving and now its more of a reason to fuck with marijuana smokers. death to the individual humans that make decisions that allow poor quality of life!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! legalize weed, Jesus!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Yo, fo real Masta. Anyone that contacts you is Ignit. Yo dog whats up with dat big stem hanging off de nug? Rather than trust yo fool ass, peeps should go ahead and flush they money down the turlet! Push yo Masta Ass in front of a moving truck be the best thing for yo crooked lying ass! Jive ass chump!

  5. some say ‘life is cheap’ -our leaders fight a war to limit our choice of smoking blend/ therapy, but can’t save their citizens from violent deaths on the streets . Waste $, time fighting cannabis and something worse will keep biting yo ass.

  6. What a surprise. A single event takes place and the news tries to blow up the story. Freaking propaganda garbage – I wonder what industry funded the expansion of this story. Hey, lets make a news article for every drunk driving accident!

    “the pedestrian is dead is because of marijuana being legalized in Washington State.”

    Get out of here. This world is pathetic.

  7. I can tell you as a fact, those stats are way off. They do work well to compare a domains traffic relative to other domains, much like Alexa. We post our stats on the sidebar so we can all follow along:)

  8. i love how radical russ had LESS THAN 400 views on his grand ol website in October, and hasn’t been above 4,000 in the past 12 months and only got a boost in november because of elections…hahahahahahah http://www.statsaholic.com/radicalruss.com

    this site got 100,000 viewers this last month as a comparison.

  9. If you are a user of the herb, you are held to a higher standard. Therefore you should never have the radio on, your cell phone on, or any other distraction while driving. You should strive for zero driving mistakes. And naturally you should drive a little slower than surrounding traffic. Personally, I drive on average over 20 thousand miles a year, and I have not had any tickets in fifteen years and have never been in trouble with the law.

    Please stoners, follow my example.

  10. This country is so hypocritical, nothing ever gets.said about the hundreds of thousands of deaths caused yearly by pills. The only people fighting against marijuana now days are people who have been tricked and decieved into believing its a terrible end of the world plant, or the people making money off it being illeagle, I know we got a lot of good, responsible, hard working people fighting for our rights I just hope they prevail

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