With more than half the country approving either medical marijuana or recreational cannabis, many opponents still argue the dangers in wider marijuana usage. A new study published in the American Journal of Public Health that looks at traffic fatalities and their relationship to medical marijuana laws may help to debunk some of the concerns or at least provide a different perspective.
A team of doctors, researchers, and other medical professionals from some well-respected departments in academia, such as Columbia University and Boston University, set out to study the correlations between traffic fatalities and medical marijuana laws in the U.S. What they found has been surprising to say the least, according to their research it seems that there was a markedly lower rate of traffic fatalities in the states that have legalized marijuana in some capacity.
The results showed that, “On average, MML states had lower traffic fatality rates than non-MML states. Medical marijuana laws were associated with immediate reductions in traffic fatalities in those aged 15 to 24 and 25 to 44 years, and with additional yearly gradual reductions in those aged 25 to 44 years. However, state-specific results showed that only 7 states experienced post-MML reductions. Dispensaries were also associated with traffic fatality reductions in those aged 25 to 44 years.”
While this is not the first study to show this correlation, it does continue to show data that suggests some of the claims against cannabis usage could be debunked if given then right data sets to study. Another such study is one from 2013, done by the Journal of Law and Economics, that found “the first full year after coming into effect, legalization is associated with an 8–11 percent decrease in traffic fatalities.”
One thing to keep in mind with this and any other study of statistical analysis is that correlation is certainly not causation and other factors could be at play in this case. But, the reduction of traffic fatalities in those age ranges can point toward a reduction in alcohol consumption and instead cannabis usage. A possibility is that people who would be potentially drinking and driving may just smoke and stay at home and not as likely to drive at all. That and while stoned driving is certainly not encouraged at all, there have been studies saying it is much safer than alcohol-impaired drivers.
Hopefully we can have more studies into similar scenarios and also cannabis impairment tests that open the dialogue further to sensible regulation of cannabis for adults. These studies are going to go a long way in having a real discussion and not allow for strawmen arguments, or at least reduce them.