Marijuana legalization increases U.S. traffic accidents and deaths
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A survey of legal marijuana users aged 21 and older by Dr. Farmer and colleagues found that after legalization and retail sales, the rate of traffic accident injuries increased by 5.8% and the rate of fatal crashes increased by 4.1%. In a comparative set of states that did not legalize marijuana, the researchers saw no increase over the same period.
Overall, the first increase in traffic accident rates occurred after marijuana legalization and before retail sales began. The injury rate from car crashes increased by 6.5% after legalization, but decreased slightly (-0.7%) after retail began. However, after legalization (+2.3%) and the legalization of retail (+1.8%), fatal accident rates increased.
Dr Farmer said: “Legalisation has removed the stigma of cannabis use and retail just increased use. But it’s not difficult to get cannabis, even where retail doesn’t exist. But users have previously avoided driving while driving. Use marijuana, but make it OK for them after marijuana is legalized.”
According to the authors, earlier studies involving driving simulators have shown that marijuana use affects reaction time, road following, lane keeping and attention. However, Farmer noted that the current study is relevant and that increased marijuana use itself may not be the only reason for the increase.
Dr Farmer said: “Research looking for a direct causal link between cannabis use and car crash risk has been inconclusive. Unlike alcohol, there is no good objective measure of how impaired cannabis users are. Before the damage, we couldn’t relate it to crash risk.”