RIDING HIGH: States where marijuana is legal have most car crashes

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24 June, 2017

"Our study focused on deaths and actually found what we expected going into this", Jason Adedoyte, lead author of the study said in a telephone interview.

The agency looked at collision claims in Washington, Oregon and Colorado before and after respective legalization took place, comparing claim frequency with five neighboring states: Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming.

The institute compared collision claims before and after legalisation, with collision claim rates of comparable states where marijuana is still illegal, to determine whether collision rates are higher than they would be if recreational use was still illegal.

These reports follow concerns of marijuana abuse as figures show an increase in the number of adults using the drug in states where laws on its use are lax.

"In Colorado about a 14% increase, in Washington a 6% increase and about a 4% increase in unanticipated crashes in the state of OR", he said.

"It would appear, probably not to anyone's surprise, that the use of marijuana contributes to crashes".

Basically, it impacted drivers differently, but the takeaway was predictable: The more marijuana they smoked, the worse their driving became.

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"More drivers admit to using marijuana, and it is showing up more frequently among people involved in crashes", the study said.

A prior study published past year in 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. Allowing for the total control group, "the combined effect for the three states was a smaller, but still significant at 3 percent", said HLDI Vice President Matt Moore.

However, the number of fatal vehicle accidents did not increase in these states, according to another study by the University of Texas in Austin.

And collision claims in those states are about 3 percent higher than they would have been without legalization, IIHS says. A new study is saying it may be due to recreational marijuana. Washington recorded a 6 percent higher rate than Montana and Idaho in terms of collision claims.

Clearly, more research would help. All three states have legalized recreational weed: Washington and Colorado in 2012, and OR in 2015. The results of that one should be ready in 2020, so I hope you don't mind waiting. "Using more data brought down the increase, but the key is that all the signals, no matter how we cut the claims data, point to an increase".

Armentano is the deputy director of NORML (the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) and an adviser for Freedom Leaf.

Mason Tvert with the Marijuana Policy Project, which fights to legalize marijuana, had something to say about that.


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