Amidst all the recent doom and gloom in the medical marijuana scene, an encouraging new study indicates there is a marked decrease in auto fatalities in states that have legalized medi-pot. Though the research has yet to be peer reviewed, it has been posted on the website of the German Institute for the Study of Labor after being released jointly by University of Colorado Denver professor Daniel Rees and Montana State University professor D. Mark Anderson.
Professors Rees and Anderson reported the traffic-death rate drops almost nine percent in states following legalization of medical marijuana. The pair of profs arrived at that calculation after including other factors such as traffic laws changes, seat-belt usage and miles driven. While the study does not openly declare that medicinal cannabis legalization was directly responsible for the reduction in traffic fatalities, the implication is clear.
However, Rees and Anderson do not attribute this decrease to drivers being more cautious when driving while medicated on marijuana (as previous studies have indicated), but rather that medical marijuana use at home (or in other non-driving scenarios) may in fact alter those patients’ use of alcohol. In other words, medicinal cannabis consumers – including younger adult drivers in their late teens and 20s – are smoking more pot and drinking less booze.
Professor Rees told the Denver Post when medi-pot is legalized in a given state, there is an average corresponding 12 percent decline in alcohol-related auto fatalities and specifically a 19 percent drop in the auto wreck death rate of those in their 20s. One possibility the study did not address – if these people are driving with the same frequency now that they were before medical marijuana legalization and if they are smoking more pot instead of drinking, that suggests they are potentially driving while stoned and experiencing less fatalities, which would further substantiate the aforementioned studies (1983 and 1992 in the U.S., 1998 in Australia and 2000 from the UK) that do indicate people actually tend to drive more cautiously when stoned.
Regardless of that argument, this new study posits that with easier, safer and legal access to medi-pot, people in those states are drinking and driving less. We seem to find a new benefit of medical marijuana every day and here is yet another.