The way the general American public perceives marijuana use has changed dramatically since the substance first became publicly popular in the 1960’s. While marijuana is still federally illegal today, an increasing number of states have made it legal both recreationally and medically.
Most people expect the federal government to follow the states lead and decriminalize it soon. However, the government seems to be waiting to see how legalization affects individual states before making the same change on a federal level. Unfortunately for many marijuana advocates, not all of this new data is positive. A recent study found that car accidents are measurably higher in states that if legalized marijuana use.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) published a study looking at traffic accidents in Colorado, Nevada, Washington and Oregon. All four of these states were earlier adopters of legal marijuana use.
Colorado voted for in 2012 and started distributing in 2014. Washington started official sales that same year. Oregon was slightly behind, they voted it in and 2014 and began distribution in 2015. Nevada sales began in late 2017.
According to the Insurance Journal, “HLDI analysts estimate that the frequency of collision claims per insured vehicle year rose a combined 6 percent following the start of retail sales of recreational marijuana in Colorado, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, compared with the control states of Idaho, Montana, Utah and Wyoming.”.
As more states continue to approve recreational marijuana use, more data will become available to study how substance use affects the communities it happens in. So far, we know that legal marijuana use does increase the number of vehicular accidents.
At first glance, that information may seem as though it will be an insurmountable roadblock to federally legalized use. However, when you stop to think about how much alcohol use, which is perfectly legal, affects car accidents you realize that marijuana is still likely safer.
If time has shown us anything it is that marijuana use is going to continue to happen in the United States whether it is legal or not. As the country shifts towards legalization, it will be interesting to pay attention to what new data reveals.