The enactment of statewide laws regulating the adult use and sale of cannabis is not associated with subsequent changes in traffic fatality rates, according to an analysis of traffic safety data (“Crash fatality rates after recreational marijuana legalization in Washington and Colorado”) published today in the American Journal of Public Health.
Investigators from the University of Texas-Austin evaluated crash fatality rates in Colorado and Washington pre- and post-legalization. They compared these rates to those of eight control states that had not enacted any significant changes in their marijuana laws.
“We found no significant association between recreational marijuana legalization in Washington and Colorado and subsequent changes in motor vehicle fatality rates in the first three years after recreational marijuana legalization,” author concluded.
Authors also reported no association between adult use marijuana legalization and the total number of non-fatal crashes.
Commenting on the findings, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “These conclusions ought to be reassuring to lawmakers and those in the public who have concerns that regulating adult marijuana use may inadvertently jeopardize public safety. These results indicate that such fears have not come to fruition, and that such concerns ought not to unduly influence legislators or voters in other jurisdictions that are considering legalizing cannabis.”
A prior study published last year by the same journal reported that the enactment of medical marijuana legalization laws is associated with a reduction in traffic fatalities compared to other states, particularly among younger drivers.
Fatal accident rates have fallen significantly over the past two decades — during the same time that a majority of US states have legalized marijuana for either medical or social use. In 1996, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that there were an estimated 37,500 fatal car crashes on US roadways. This total fell to under 30,000 by 2014.