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  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director March 21, 2018

    The enactment of adult use marijuana regulation in Colorado and Washington is not independently linked to an increase in traffic fatalities, according to a study published this week by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

    Investigators at the University of Oregon compared traffic accident outcomes in Colorado and Washington following legalization to other states with similar pre-legalization economic and traffic trends. They reported, “We find that states that legalized marijuana have not experienced significantly different rates of marijuana- or alcohol-related traffic fatalities relative to their synthetic controls.”

    Authors concluded, “In summary, the similar trajectory of traffic fatalities in Washington and Colorado relative to their synthetic control counterparts yield little evidence that the total rate of traffic fatalities has increased significantly as a consequence of recreational marijuana legalization.”

    The study’s findings are similar to those of a 2017 study published in The American Journal of Public Health which reported, “Three years after recreational marijuana legalization, changes in motor vehicle crash fatality rates for Washington and Colorado were not statistically different from those in similar states without recreational marijuana legalization.”

    A 2016 study reported that the enactment of medical cannabis legislation is associated with an immediate decline in traffic fatalities among younger drivers.

    Full text of the study, “Early evidence on recreational marijuana legalization and traffic fatalities” is available from the National Bureau of Economic Research. NORML’s fact-sheets on cannabis, psychomotor performance, and accident risk is online here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director June 22, 2017

    thumbs_upThe enactment of statewide laws regulating the adult use and sale of cannabis is not associated with subsequent changes in traffic fatality rates, according to an analysis of traffic safety data (“Crash fatality rates after recreational marijuana legalization in Washington and Colorado”) published today in the American Journal of Public Health.

    Investigators from the University of Texas-Austin evaluated crash fatality rates in Colorado and Washington pre- and post-legalization. They compared these rates to those of eight control states that had not enacted any significant changes in their marijuana laws.

    “We found no significant association between recreational marijuana legalization in Washington and Colorado and subsequent changes in motor vehicle fatality rates in the first three years after recreational marijuana legalization,” author concluded.

    They further reported, “[W]e also found no association between recreational marijuana legalization and total crash rates when analyzing available state-reported nonfatal crash statistics.”

    Commenting on the findings, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “These conclusions ought to be reassuring to lawmakers and those in the public who have concerns that regulating adult marijuana use may inadvertently jeopardize public safety. These results indicate that such fears have not come to fruition, and that such concerns ought not to unduly influence legislators or voters in other jurisdictions that are considering legalizing cannabis.”

    A prior study published last year by the same journal reported that the enactment of medical marijuana legalization laws is associated with a reduction in traffic fatalities compared to other states, particularly among younger drivers.

    Fatal accident rates have fallen significantly over the past two decades — during the same time that a majority of US states have legalized marijuana for either medical or social use. In 1996, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that there were an estimated 37,500 fatal car crashes on US roadways. This total fell to under 30,000 by 2014.

    A summary of the study appears online under ‘First Look’ on the apha.org website here.

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director November 29, 2011

    That’s at least according to a paper published today by University of Colorado Denver Professor Daniel Rees and Montana State University Assistant Professor D. Mark Anderson. The study looked at traffic fatalities nationwide for the years 1990-2009 to see if there was any correlation between highway fatalities and liberalized medical marijuana laws. They found that, in states that legalized the medicinal use of marijuana, both traffic fatalities and alcohol consumption declined.

    Study shows medical marijuana laws reduce traffic deaths
    Leads to lower consumption of alcohol

    DENVER (Nov. 29, 2011) – A groundbreaking new study shows that laws legalizing medical marijuana have resulted in a nearly nine percent drop in traffic deaths and a five percent reduction in beer sales.

    “Our research suggests that the legalization of medical marijuana reduces traffic fatalities through reducing alcohol consumption by young adults,” said Daniel Rees, professor of economics at the University of Colorado Denver who co-authored the study with D. Mark Anderson, assistant professor of economics at Montana State University.

    The researchers collected data from a variety of sources including the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, and the Fatality Analysis Reporting System.

    The study is the first to examine the relationship between the legalization of medical marijuana and traffic deaths.

    “We were astounded by how little is known about the effects of legalizing medical marijuana,” Rees said. “We looked into traffic fatalities because there is good data, and the data allow us to test whether alcohol was a factor.”

    Anderson noted that traffic deaths are significant from a policy standpoint.

    “Traffic fatalities are an important outcome from a policy perspective because they represent the leading cause of death among Americans ages five to 34,” he said.

    The economists analyzed traffic fatalities nationwide, including the 13 states that legalized medical marijuana between 1990 and 2009. In those states, they found evidence that alcohol consumption by 20- through 29-year-olds went down, resulting in fewer deaths on the road.

    The economists noted that simulator studies conducted by previous researchers suggest that drivers under the influence of alcohol tend to underestimate how badly their skills are impaired. They drive faster and take more risks. In contrast, these studies show that drivers under the influence of marijuana tend to avoid risks. However, Rees and Anderson cautioned that legalization of medical marijuana may result in fewer traffic deaths because it’s typically used in private, while alcohol is often consumed at bars and restaurants.

    “I think this is a very timely study given all the medical marijuana laws being passed or under consideration,” Anderson said. “These policies have not been research-based thus far and our research shows some of the social effects of these laws. Our results suggest a direct link between marijuana and alcohol consumption.”

    The study also examined marijuana use in three states that legalized medical marijuana in the mid-2000s, Montana, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Marijuana use by adults increased after legalization in Montana and Rhode Island, but not in Vermont. There was no evidence that marijuana use by minors increased.

    “Although we make no policy recommendations, it certainly appears as though medical marijuana laws are making our highways safer,” Rees said.

    Read the full press release here.

    So, it seems those prohibitionist claims about high bus drivers crashing into buildings and stoned motorists wrecking havoc on our highways now slip even further into the realm of fantasy. Though perhaps that 5% reduction in alcohol consumption explains why the California Beer and Beverage Distributors Association found it necessary to contribute $10,000 last year to oppose Proposition 19.