Prosecutor says THC results in deadly crash don't matter

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) The toxicology report of a man charged with killing five teens in a wrong-way crash on Interstate 89 last year reveals what was in his bloodstream hours after the fatal crash. The report shows that hours after the crash, Steven Bourgoin, 27, still had a mix of several drugs in his blood: THC, the mind-altering ingredient of marijuana; fentanyl, an opioid pain medication; and Midazolam, a sedative.

Steven Bourgoin

The report confirms high amounts of THC in his system. The report says Bourgoin had about 10 nanograms of THC in his blood eight hours after that deadly crash. The state of Colorado, where recreational marijuana is legal, says THC levels over 5 nanograms increase the odds of a crash. And any level of the drug is against the law in Vermont. But according to the Vermont Department of Public Safety, "the levels of Midazolam and Fentanyl could be therapeutic levels."

Now, people against the legalization of recreational marijuana are seizing on this report saying the pot was to blame.

"If he was as high on marijuana as this report suggests, I think marijuana is the cause of this accident," said Rep. Ben Joseph, D-Grand Isle.

Joseph represents Grand Isle now but he used to be a judge. He says the Bourgoin case is an example of why marijuana should not be legalized in Vermont, allowing drivers under the influence of marijuana on the road.

"I think that there will be more incidents like this if you legalize recreational marijuana," Joseph said.

Bourgoin has pleaded not guilty to five counts of second-degree murder and is awaiting trial. And Chittenden County Prosecutor Sarah George says this toxicology report has nothing to do with her murder case against Bourgoin.

"This toxicology report just shows that he had marijuana in his system. If that was the only factor involved and he was charged with driving under the influence of drugs, this would be a very different conversation," George said. "I didn't want it released because I don't want people trying to justify his actions based on that."

Joseph points out Bourgoin had at least twice the level of THC in his system as what's allowed in Colorado where marijuana is legal. He doesn't want more people killed by drivers high on pot.

"It's not a question of stopping it, it's a question of preventing an increase in this stuff. It's very dangerous, we shouldn't increase its use," Joseph said.

WCAX News reached out to the Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana. In a statement, Matt Simon of the Marijuana Policy Project notes: "It is already illegal in Vermont to drive while impaired by marijuana or any other substance. This public safety concern can best be addressed by education and reasonable regulations, not by keeping marijuana illegal in spite of public opinion."