Seahawk Hit-And-Run Case Raises Concern About Dangerous Drug
We should know in a few weeks whether Seahawks fullback Derrick Coleman will be charged with two felonies in connection with a hit-and-run crash in Bellevue last October.
Bellevue Police this week recommended charges to the King County Prosecutors Office. And that has drawn criticism from Coleman’s attorney.
The case has raised an issue that has KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel concerned.
What's Not In Dispute
"According to the police report, Coleman's car pushed another vehicle 260 ft. and then up a small incline where the vehicle flipped and injured the driver. He had a broken collarbone and a head injury and was hospitalized," Thiel explained.
"Coleman was arrested, jailed and released. The Seahawks suspended Coleman for a game and also sat him out a following week because he apparently had a concussion from the accident.
"A three-month investigation recommended that Coleman be charged with two felonies: vehicular assault and hit-and-run.
"Those are the facts that are not in dispute by the Bellevue Police Department, witnesses or Derrick Coleman's attorney."
What IS In Dispute
The question is whether Coleman was impaired while driving.
"Police discovered in his car drug paraphernalia related to synthetic marijuana, specifically the drug called spice," Thiel said.
"According to the police report, Coleman admitted to smoking spice in the hour before he drove the vehicle.
"However, in a blood test six hours after the accident, there was no trace of this drug in his system. Also, the only evidence that police presented was their word that Coleman admitted using spice.
"There were no video or audio recordings. And the attorney for Coleman, Steve Hayne, said there is no evidence that these drugs - or anything else - impaired him.
"The upshot is we have a large controversy going with whether he was impaired and why he was using synthetic marijuana - if that indeed was the case," he said.
Broader Issue: Synthetic Marijuana
"The issue does come down to the NFL's policy and why players might be prone to using synthetic marijuana," Thiel continued.
"Part of this includes the NFL's policy against substance abuse, which includes marijuana. A player who is detected using regular marijuana is subject to suspension.
"So players avoid regular marijuana and may go to synthetic marijuana. But everything I've read about this talks about the dangerous properties in synthetic marijuana - such as hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, even suicidal thoughts.
"There's been another episode recently in the NFL where Chandler Jones, a defensive end for the New England Patriots, was found running to the police department for help because, according to reports, he was having a bad reaction to synthetic marijuana. No charges - because synthetic marijuana is not illegal."
What Is It?
"Synthetic marijuana is a combination of chemicals sprayed on vegetable matter that allows the substance to be smoked. It has properties somewhat similar to marijuana but the reactions are very hazardous. I don't know whether players understand that," Thiel said.
"I do know that players use marijuana to manage pain. It's a proven pain management drug that is legal in many states (including Washington) and even recreational use is being legalized in many states (already in Washington). But the NFL isn't ready to accept that and I think that's going to be an issue."
NFL Needs To 'Catch Up' On Marijuana
"If they don't catch up with the times regarding marijuana, they're going to force some players who are ill-informed to take medication that is really dangerous," Thiel pointed out.
"This is again bringing the NFL into another non-football social issue upon which it needs leadership to try to develop some enlightenment about the medical use of marijuana."
You can find Art Thiel's work at Sportspress Northwest and Crosscut.com.