The last hope for a young man on trial for the deaths of four people may be convincing the court that he smokes a lot of marijuana.
Joseph Beer, a 19-year-old Queens resident, is on trial for crashing his car with only a learner’s permit while allegedly high on marijuana, killing four people. His lawyer is arguing that he wasn’t impaired because he smokes pot so much that he has built up a tolerance, CBS New York reports.
Prosecutors allege that Beer was impaired after smoking $US20 worth of pot and crashing his car at 100 miles per hour on Long Island, New York in 2012. The crash killed four teenage passengers in Beer’s car, who were all his friends.
Near the end of the trial last week, Beer’s attorney argued that Beer smokes pot habitually and therefore wasn’t impaired. Instead, Beer’s defence claims the deadly crash was an accident, caused by Beer speeding around a sharp curve.
“If you are a frequent user you do build up a tolerance,” defence attorney Todd Greenberg told CBS New York. “And the marijuana has less effect on your cognitive abilities, which are the abilities you need to drive a car.”
The argument relied on expert testimony from Yale School of Medicine Professor Dr. Mehmet Sofuoglu, who said that for chronic marijuana users like Beer “the level of the active ingredient [of marijuana] THC in their blood isn’t a good measure of whether they’re impaired,” Newsday reported.
Sofuoglu also testified that he hasn’t been able to determine in his research whether marijuana use causes a greater risk of car accidents.
However, other studies have shown links to marijuana use and impaired driving. THC is the most common substance found in the blood of impaired drivers, drivers with fatal wounds, and car crash victims, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Beer could serve 25 years in prison if he is convicted of aggravated vehicular homicide.
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