The passage of medical marijuana legalization is associated with reduced traffic fatalities among younger drivers, according to data published online ahead of print in the American Journal of Public Health.
Investigators from Columbia University in New York and the University of California at Davis analyzed traffic fatality data from the years 1985 to 2014.
They reported that states with medical cannabis laws had lower overall traffic fatality rates compared to states where cannabis is illegal, and that there was an immediate decline in motor vehicle deaths following the establishment of a legal cannabis market – particularly among those under 44 years of age.
Authors concluded: “[O]n average, MMLs (medical marijuana laws) states had lower traffic fatality rates than non-MML states. …. MMLs are associated with reductions in traffic fatalities, particularly pronounced among those aged 25 to 44 years. … It is possible that this is related to lower alcohol-impaired driving behavior in MML-states.”
An abstract of the study, “US traffic fatalities, 1985-2014, and their relationship to medical marijuana laws,” appears online here.
The group opposing Maine’s marijuana legalization initiative has withdrawn its recount effort.
Last month, representatives from ‘No on 1’ requested a recount of the vote totals specific to Question 1: The Marijuana Legalization Act. On Saturday, the campaign conceded that the recount would not impact the Election Day result, which estimated Question 1 winning by slightly over 4,000 votes.
The measure is now expected to be enacted 30 days after Gov. Paul LePage affirms the result.
The Act permits adults who are not participating in the state’s medical cannabis program to possess personal use quantities of marijuana (up to two and one-half ounces and/or the total harvest produced by six plants). The measure also establishes regulations for the commercial cultivation and retail sale of cannabis to adults. Regulations governing marijuana-related businesses are scheduled to be in place by August 8, 2017.
Speaking live on WGAN radio last week, Gov. LePage criticized the measure, stating, “If there was ever a bill that the legislature should just kibosh, that’s it.” The Governor further suggested increasing the retail sales tax rates associated with the measure, as well as abolishing the state’s medical cannabis program, which has been in place since 1999.
Results from the 2016 edition of the Monitoring the Future survey find that marijuana use by 8th-graders and 10th-graders is declining year by year. Further, a greater percentage of younger teens now say that their ability to obtain marijuana is more difficult than ever before.
Marijuana use patterns among 12th-graders have held steady since 2011, the survey reported.
Approximately 50,000 students are surveyed annually as part of the University of Michigan study.
Since the mid-1990s, self-reported lifetime use of cannabis has fallen 44 percent among 8th-graders, 30 percent among 10th-graders, and ten percent among 12th-graders. Twenty-nine states have legalized the medical use of cannabis, and eight of those states have also regulated the adult use of marijuana, since that time.
Overall, teens’ self-reported use of alcohol and/or any illicit substance aside from marijuana is at a historic low.
Massachusetts today became the sixth US state to enact legislation eliminating criminal penalties specific to the adult possession and personal use of cannabis. The law change ends over a century-long policy of criminal cannabis prohibition in the Bay State. Massachusetts was the first state in the nation to criminalize the use of marijuana — a policy it first enacted in 1911.
“By legalizing the adult use of marijuana, Massachusetts will shrink the illicit black market, generate millions in tax revenue, end the arrest of otherwise law abiding citizens, and better enable society to keep marijuana out of the hands of children,” NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri said.
Alaska, California, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington have previously adopted voter-initiated laws legalizing the private consumption of cannabis by adults. The District of Columbia also permits adults to legally possess and grow personal use quantities of marijuana in private residences.
On Election Day, 54 percent of Massachusetts voters approved Question 4, The Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act. Question 4 permits adults who are not participating in the state’s existing medical cannabis program to legally grow up to six plants, including all of the harvest from those plants, and to possess personal use quantities of cannabis (up to one ounce and/or up to 5 grams of concentrate; in addition, adults may legally possess up to ten ounces of marijuana flower in their home). Public consumption of cannabis remains a civil violation.
Separate provisions in the statute also license the commercial cannabis production and retail sales of cannabis. Those regulations do not take effect until January 1, 2018. However, some state lawmakers have suggested delaying this timeline, raising the state’s proposed sales tax rate, and amending the state’s new home cultivation guidelines — proposals that NORML opposes.
In a just published “exit interview” with Rolling Stone Magazine, President Barack Obama opined that marijuana use should be treated as a public-health issue, not a criminal matter, and called the current patchwork of state and federal laws regarding the drug “untenable.”
“Look, I’ve been very clear about my belief that we should try to discourage substance abuse,” Obama said. “And I am not somebody who believes that legalization is a panacea. But I do believe that treating this as a public-health issue, the same way we do with cigarettes or alcohol, is the much smarter way to deal with it.”
He added, “It is untenable over the long term for the Justice Department or the DEA to be enforcing a patchwork of laws, where something that’s legal in one state could get you a 20-year prison sentence in another. So this is a debate that is now ripe, much in the same way that we ended up making progress on same-sex marriage.”
Although the administration, largely in its second term, has permitted states to experiment with marijuana legalization policies without federal interference, it has not pushed strongly for any permanent changes in federal law, such as amending cannabis’ schedule I classification or permitting banks to work closely with state-licensed marijuana businesses. As a result, some marijuana law reform advocates believe that President Obama has not done enough to move the issue forward during his tenure. Responding to this criticism, Obama said: “Look, I am now very much in lame-duck status. And I will have the opportunity as a private citizen to describe where I think we need to go.”
Why Obama believes that he will have greater opportunities to address cannabis policy as a private citizen than he did as President of the United States leaves us scratching our heads, but we certainly hope that he follows through on his pledge to focus on drug policy reform in the next phase of his political career.
You can read President Obama’s exit interview with Rolling Stone in it’s entirety here.