Health Care

Recreational Marijuana Legalization: Is Driving More Dangerous In States With Legal Weed?

A new study that links auto crashes to marijuana shows vehicle accidents have gone up nearly three percent in three states where it is legal.

HLDI found that states, where marijuana is legalized such as Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, had a 3% increase in vehicle collision claims than states where pot is illegal.

Year-over-year changes in crash fatality rates in the two recreational pot states were similar to those in Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin, said lead researcher Dr. Jayson Aydelotte. States that have decriminalized it are still grappling with the legality of using marijuana for warrantless searches.

Moore, from the Highway Loss Data Institute, noted they hope policymakers and regulators will consider the study's findings in states where marijuana legalization is now under consideration or recently enacted.

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In addition to Colorado, Oregon and Washington, five other states including the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for all uses.

Brine said they are numbers to pay attention to, but numbers of crashes related to distracted driving are "far more startling".

According to the group's statistics, crash rates have spiked in Colorado, Washington and OR by 16 percent, 6.2 percent, and 4.5 percent, respectively. The HLDI also analyzed information from control states, including Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming, each of which has different levels of legalization between medical use and full prohibition.

Eight states and Washington, D.C., have legalized recreational marijuana for adults.

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Data showing increases in arrests of people suspected of driving under the influence of drugs in Colorado can be misleading, said Mark Bolton, marijuana adviser to Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper.

The topic has dominated discussions in legislative committee rooms from California to MA and also on front porches across the country, as activists gathering petition signatures have gone door-to-door trying to sway potential voters in legalization efforts.

"I haven't found a reporter covering this who can explain why the study makes sense", he says, noting that "they factored in things like the average temperatures and employment rates - and they didn't actually look at the cause of the accidents to see if marijuana was involved".

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"The increased availability of marijuana may be reducing alcohol use in some states", said Santaella-Tenorio.



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