Please Smoke and Drive? Study Suggests Marijuana Use Reduces Traffic Deaths and Beer Sales

We recently saw how the leading California physicians group has called for the decriminalization of marijuana as no more harmful as alcohol. Now a new study suggests that legalizing medical marijuana has resulted in a nearly nine percent drop in traffic deaths and a five percent reduction in beer sales.

Daniel Rees, professor of economics at the University of Colorado Denver and D. Mark Anderson, assistant professor of economics at Montana State University co-authored the study and published the surprising results “that the legalization of medical marijuana reduces traffic fatalities through reducing alcohol consumption by young adults.” The study was based on statistics from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, and the Fatality Analysis Reporting System.

They looked at traffic fatalities nationwide, including the 13 states that legalized medical marijuana between 1990 and 2009. In those states, they found evidence that alcohol consumption by 20- through 29-year-olds went down, resulting in fewer deaths on the road. They also explored studies showing that pot users are less likely to drive recklessly than alcohol users.

Notably, in three states that legalized medical marijuana in the mid-2000s — Montana, Rhode Island, and Vermont — there is no evidence that marijuana use by minors increased.

Obviously, there can be considerable debate over the cause and effect of the legalization and accident rate. I am particularly concern about the relatively small number of people benefiting from such laws and how such a number would produce a meaningful change in overall accident rates.

Here is the summary of the findings:

To date, 16 states have passed medical marijuana laws, yet very little is known about their effects. Using state-level data, we examine the relationship between medical marijuana laws and a variety of outcomes. Legalization of medical marijuana is associated with increased use of marijuana among adults, but not among minors. In addition, legalization is associated with a nearly 9 percent decrease in traffic

The study is entitled, “Medical Marijuana Laws, Traffic Fatalities, and Alcohol Consumption.” It can be found at this site.

Source: Medical Xpress

33 thoughts on “Please Smoke and Drive? Study Suggests Marijuana Use Reduces Traffic Deaths and Beer Sales”

  1. Bruce……Except the anecdotal effect that it produces is anxiety….which feeds the need for something to relax….best to learn to deal with all things being equal….

  2. Doesn’t surprise me at all. I drove while stoned on marijuana about 40 years ago… once. Probably the only time in my life I drove consistently 5 miles per hour below the speed limit. I was acutely aware of being impaired and it made me super-cautious. The drug alters time perception and it seemed to take forever to make what was actually a ten-minute drive. Even if I’d hit something, it would have been at 25 mph… I doubt I’d have done the drive at all except I had my father’s car and I had to get it home…

    I never repeated the experience. That drive home was so harrowing I was never tempted to try driving stoned again.

    One last point – anecdotal, sure, but I bet there’s research that bears it out: alcohol makes people more aggressive; marijuana, on the whole, induces relaxation, mellowness, the whole passive state we call “laid back”. I doubt you’d ever see a stoner exhibiting road rage. Ask me to choose between a highway filled with drunks and one with lots of stoners, I’ll go with the potheads.

  3. I did a report on medical marijuana a little over a year ago in college. I found out many interesting things. How many people die every year from prescription drugs? I don’t remember the exact number but it was a lot. Combine that with the deaths from legal alcohol and cigarettes and you have a huge number. How many people have overdosed on marijuana, 0 that’s how many. To ingest enough to kill you a person would have to use I believe it was something like 20,000x what a normal user would. But don’t take my word for it, do some research on your own.

  4. (11-30) 16:57 PST OAKLAND — A judge has rejected a request from medical marijuana suppliers to bar federal prosecutors from filing charges against them or seizing their property.

    U.S. District Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong in Oakland said the medical marijuana collectives had failed to show they would suffer “immediate, irreparable harm” without a court order.

    “The court is sensitive to the desires of individuals to use medical marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation, as permitted by California law,” Armstrong wrote in a 27-page ruling filed this week. “Nonetheless, marijuana remains illegal under federal law, and in Congress’ view, it has no medicinal value.”

    In rejecting the advocates’ request for temporary injunctions, the judge also said she doubted they would prevail in lawsuits seeking to halt the Obama administration’s campaign to shut down their dispensaries.

    Marijuana suppliers, patients and property owners filed lawsuits in each of the state’s four federal districts last month, accusing the Justice Department of violating an agreement to leave them alone if they complied with California law.

    The department had said “those who possess, grow and distribute medical marijuana in compliance with state law will not be prosecuted nor their property seized,” the plaintiffs’ lawyers said.

    They argued that the federal government had made a binding commitment to follow that policy in settling a suit last year by a marijuana collective in Santa Cruz. The government is breaching that settlement, and breaking the law, with its strategy of going after marijuana dispensaries by threatening to prosecute their landlords, the plaintiffs’ lawyers said.

    The Justice Department announced its new policy at an October news conference with the four federal prosecutors in California. It has denied it broke any legal commitments to the courts or promises to the public.

    E-mail Henry K. Lee at hlee@sfchronicle.com.

    Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/11/30/BATU1M6G2T.DTL#ixzz1fFVRoOc5http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/11/30/BATU1M6G2T.DTL&tsp=1

    OK You lawyers are going to have to explain this to me.
    Is it totally teh suck, or what?
    Seems like it to me!

  5. HenMan,

    Oh come on … an increase in males over 60 approving same sex marriage means I didn’t get your increase in “cancer” claims?! We’re talking mellowing out … oh, never mind … I made it up anyway

    5,123 toothpicks and still counting …

  6. marinol, the prescription form of cannabis is too strong for most people. plus it being a gel cap you can’t control the dosage.

    or so i’ve been told.

  7. OK, that tumor reduction effect — I never heard that before. Anything ELSE that had a proven tumor reduction effect would be all over the place at five times the price of weed and being marketed on TV with “Ask your doctor…” ads showing folks over 60 hugging each other. Then at the end of the ad in a hushed yet monotonous voice you’d hear “Marijuana may cause laughter and hunger; tell your doctor if you suffer from law enforcement.”

  8. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/01/us/federal-marijuana-classification-should-change-gregoire-and-chafee-say.html?_r=1

    Arizona wants the same assurances:

    “The governors of Washington and Rhode Island petitioned the federal government on Wednesday to reclassify marijuana as a drug with accepted medical uses, saying the change is needed so states like theirs, which have decriminalized marijuana for medical purposes, can regulate the safe distribution of the drug without risking federal prosecution.”

    Marijuana should never have been a Schedule 1 drug in the first place.

  9. Blouise and Shano-

    Sorry- I forgot to put on my baggy pants and red stick-on nose when I made my 1:27 PM comment. In my own obtuse way I was trying to say that the incidence of people claiming to have cancer tripled in states that legalized medical marijuana. I’ll try not to be so subtle in the future- I’ll bring my slapstick with me.

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