Study: States with Medical Marijuana Laws See Decreased Traffic Fatalities

by | Dec 23, 2016

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Medical marijuana expansion advocates got another boost today from a new study that debunks claims that legalizing medical marijuana could lead to increased traffic fatalities. The study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, found a decrease in traffic fatalities in states enacting medical marijuana laws compared to years before medical marijuana was legalized. The study examined data between 1985 and 2014 compiled from the Fatality Analysis Report System.

Florida lawmakers are preparing to debate how to implement Amendment 2, which goes into affect on January 3, 2017, and expands the use of medical marijuana beyond the already legal use of cannabis oil. But under current law, only six licensed growers are legally permitted to grow and harvest cannabis in the state of Florida. Critics say those six producers won’t be able to keep up with demand, and that state lawmakers are playing favorites by allowing state regulators to choose which Florida nurseries can become licensed marijuana cultivators.

Here’s the abstract from the AJPH study:

Objectives. To determine the association of medical marijuana laws (MMLs) with traffic fatality rates.


Methods. Using data from the 1985–2014 Fatality Analysis Reporting System, we examined the association between MMLs and traffic fatalities in multilevel regression models while controlling for contemporaneous secular trends. We examined this association separately for each state enacting MMLs. We also evaluated the association between marijuana dispensaries and traffic fatalities.


Results. 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.

Conclusions. Both MMLs and dispensaries were associated with reductions in traffic fatalities, especially among those aged 25 to 44 years. State-specific analysis showed heterogeneity of the MML–traffic fatalities association, suggesting moderation by other local factors. These findings could influence policy decisions on the enactment or repealing of MMLs and how they are implemented.

(Am J Public Health. Published online ahead of print December 20, 2016: e1–e7. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2016.303577)


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