A new study led by Daniel Rees, professor of economics at the University of Colorado-Denver, revealed that states where the use of marijuana for medical purposes has been legalized had fewer fatal traffic accidents.
Rees said: “We were astounded by how little is known about the effects of legalizing medical marijuana… We looked into traffic fatalities because there is good data, and the data allow us to test whether alcohol was a factor… Traffic fatalities are an important outcome from a policy perspective because they represent the leading cause of death among Americans ages 5 to 34.”
The study involved an analysis of government data, 1990 – 2009, from the National Household Survey on Drug Use and Health, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It was published by the non-profit labor research organization IZA, which is associated with the University of Bonn in Germany.
The study authors conducted a comparison between traffic deaths in states that have legalized medical marijuana, versus states that have not done so. The results of the analysis indicated that in states where medical marijuana use is legal, fatal car crashes dropped by 9 percent. This decrease was being attributed to a decrease in drunk driving.
The researchers determined further that medical marijuana laws brought about reduced car crashes more in men than in women, which matched data that indicated that men were more likely to register as medical marijuana users when compared against women. They also found that there was no increase in teenage smoking of marijuana in states where medical marijuana has been legalized.