Want to Lower Traffic Fatalities? Try Legalizing Medical Marijuana.

That’s at least according to a paper published today by University of Colorado Denver Professor Daniel Rees and Montana State University Assistant Professor D. Mark Anderson. The study looked at traffic fatalities nationwide for the years 1990-2009 to see if there was any correlation between highway fatalities and liberalized medical marijuana laws. They found that, in states that legalized the medicinal use of marijuana, both traffic fatalities and alcohol consumption declined.

Study shows medical marijuana laws reduce traffic deaths
Leads to lower consumption of alcohol
DENVER (Nov. 29, 2011) – A groundbreaking new study shows that laws legalizing medical marijuana have resulted in a nearly nine percent drop in traffic deaths and a five percent reduction in beer sales.
“Our research suggests that the legalization of medical marijuana reduces traffic fatalities through reducing alcohol consumption by young adults,” said Daniel Rees, professor of economics at the University of Colorado Denver who co-authored the study with D. Mark Anderson, assistant professor of economics at Montana State University.
The researchers collected data from a variety of sources including the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, and the Fatality Analysis Reporting System.
The study is the first to examine the relationship between the legalization of medical marijuana and traffic deaths.
“We were astounded by how little is known about the effects of legalizing medical marijuana,” Rees said. “We looked into traffic fatalities because there is good data, and the data allow us to test whether alcohol was a factor.”
Anderson noted that traffic deaths are significant from a policy standpoint.
“Traffic fatalities are an important outcome from a policy perspective because they represent the leading cause of death among Americans ages five to 34,” he said.
The economists analyzed 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.
The economists noted that simulator studies conducted by previous researchers suggest that drivers under the influence of alcohol tend to underestimate how badly their skills are impaired. They drive faster and take more risks. In contrast, these studies show that drivers under the influence of marijuana tend to avoid risks. However, Rees and Anderson cautioned that legalization of medical marijuana may result in fewer traffic deaths because it’s typically used in private, while alcohol is often consumed at bars and restaurants.
“I think this is a very timely study given all the medical marijuana laws being passed or under consideration,” Anderson said. “These policies have not been research-based thus far and our research shows some of the social effects of these laws. Our results suggest a direct link between marijuana and alcohol consumption.”
The study also examined marijuana use in three states that legalized medical marijuana in the mid-2000s, Montana, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Marijuana use by adults increased after legalization in Montana and Rhode Island, but not in Vermont. There was no evidence that marijuana use by minors increased.

“Although we make no policy recommendations, it certainly appears as though medical marijuana laws are making our highways safer,” Rees said.

Read the full press release here.
So, it seems those prohibitionist claims about high bus drivers crashing into buildings and stoned motorists wrecking havoc on our highways now slip even further into the realm of fantasy. Though perhaps that 5% reduction in alcohol consumption explains why the California Beer and Beverage Distributors Association found it necessary to contribute $10,000 last year to oppose Proposition 19.

52 thoughts

  1. When you drink, you’re numb to the world. When you’re high, you’re one with the world.

  2. What ailment is the Gov. going to come up with now to top that? The alcohol lobbiests are going to go nuts with the Christmas gifts this year for OUR congress members.

  3. Omg, I would LOVE to see Kerlikowske’s reaction to this! Driving people to drink… LITERALLY. By encouraging students and young adults to drink we are CAUSING SIGNIFICANT DEATH.

  4. Marijuana prohibition is clearly, without a doubt in my mind, modern day CONSPIRACY THEORY. The government supports the death of teens.

  5. Not only does marijuana NOT contribute to toxic overdose deaths, but by diverting individuals to use it as a terminus vs. alcohol we are REDUCING DEATH by USING MARIJUANA. We should be encouraging young adults to consume marijuana OVER alcohol. See if the NIDA ever sponsors ‘that’ idea.

  6. yaah good luck proving this to congressional members. these guzzle drinking pigs will never accept this statement, not in a million years!

  7. Just to be clear, this can be read that by consuming cannabis, as a terminus to booze, we are REDUCING death. Yes, smoke pot and help SAVE lives!!!

  8. They say marijuana plastics from the obvious oil –I mean –marijuana plant creates plastics stronger than petrol plastics . . . how many fewer fatalities would there be if we had stronger vehicles made out of the marijuana plant –at least that’s what Ford was growing and working on before Anslinger came around.

  9. At the age of “late 30 something”, I find it hard to drink beer or alcohol like i use too. So, if i lived in a state where i could obtain any type/strain of marijuana that I perferred, I would never drink a beer again. sorry SweetWater.

  10. The drunk driver speeds through the stop sign without seeing it.
    The stoned driver stops and patiently waits for it to turn green.
    We realize that most people drive more cautiously when stoned than even when we are sober,it will take time for the rest of America to figure it out,,a joint before driving ought to be a requirement in

  11. B-b-b-but, what about the lost profits from the breweries?
    Also, NORML, when are ya gonna fix that State Law Map CLICK BAITING monstrosity you replaced the old, good map with??? Still waiting. ‘We’ll see’ huh?

  12. We’ve suspected this notion that weed creates safer roads for a long time now. The problem here is how do we keep this info from the Alcohol goons that will pour money into our political system to prevent legalization? haha Those goons have known this for years too and yet they lobby for more dead bodies. What a country!

  13. Don’t eat weed and drive. Back in my weekend warrior days I drove back from a gig at 15 mph all the way. This worked at 2 or 3 am, but maybe not so much at rush hour.

  14. #8 Son of Sam: Sorry but I’m in plastics. Been in it all my life. You cannot make “stronger” plastics with cannabis bio mass. Sorry but it’s not possible but there are some niche areas for bio mass plastics but not in the high heat, chemical resistent, or “other” demanding applications. That said there are areas that these “green” additives can be used effectively reducing demand on petro-chemical feed stocks considerably. The technology is advancing but will never fully replace the vast arry of polymers out there presently. Our company offers 98% renewable polymers however it only services a few low end applications at this time.

  15. I wonder if these researchers might also look at other prohibitionist fears in medical states where good quality marijuana has been used by many people for many years. Are rates of cancer, lung disease, amotivational syndrome, schizophrenia, hard drug use, low productivity, accidents, etc., skyrocketing in that population of marijuana users as we have been told will surely be the case?

  16. See? We should at least legalize marijuana like alcohol, like 21 and up is legal. But the real truth why the govt. made marijuana illegal was because the cotton and tobacco companies were loosing money, and weed had the highest profit. Weed grows fairly well, so you could grow a lot. I don’t smoke anything, but from friends and relatives, weed calms you down, helps you sleep, and makes you less hungry! But, when you are sober again, you are even more hungry. So mature drivers (so the weed doesn’t destroy the minor’s minds) should be able to smoke marijuana. I am 14, and I think more optimistically than govt. officials.. Way to go America!

  17. OMG!
    Yet another pseudo-scientific investigation whose results encourage liberalization of marijuana laws, no doubt operated by a bunch of dope-smoking hippie ‘domestic terrorists’. Thank goodness that ‘our’ Federal government pays attention only to cannabis studies that are ONDCP / DEA / DHHS approved and funded. Otherwise, the populous might become less distracted by consumerism, the NFL & NASCAR, or American Idol and start paying attention to what the Powers That Be are actually doing.
    Not unlike the PATRIOT Act, the Help America Vote (Our Way) Act, and the Military Commissions Act that preceded and enabled our Police State, the latest machinations of the majority of the US Senate have approved the ‘indefinite extrajudicial detention’ of USA citizens on USA soil as a codicil of the Military Appropriations Act.
    A majority of both Democratic and Republican Senators voted in favor of all of this legislation. We The People need to be far more discerning of the politicians that We vote into office if we are ever to regain our inalienable rights and liberties, including whatever herbal compounds that we use in the enhancement of our journey through this life.

  18. Provided that a drunk can pull over safely after blowing a tire, i wonder how long it would take to change the flat tire vs the cannabis user? or how many drunks does it take to change a flat? period.

  19. I’ve said this all my life . In California there’s been a decrease in traffic fatalties which i said was due to an increasing use of cannabis which undoubtably results in less consumption of alcoholic beverages . More pot use & less alcohol usage results in less violent crimes, too since alcohol creates aggression & pot does not .I also think that war(s) has a lot to do with pharmaceuticals .Politicians are paid by pharma to start wars . It’s all about money . Before death there is pharmaceutical & when injured there is pharmaceutical & so on .
    This guy says a lot – http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=09d_1322586655

  20. While accidents might have went down, I bet those darn pot heads caused more gasoline consumption due to forgetting where they were going and then back tracking or missing turns because they were paying too much attention to driving down the street or were talking/listening to music and missing their turn. What will be worse, a fewer road accidents or more global warming?

  21. bongstar420 You think that’s funny Huh. I’ll tell you that after missing my turn and turning around three times I didn’t think it was funny anymore. And probably shouldn’t even mention not being able to find my way out of a round parking area 40 years ago.

  22. “Though perhaps that 5% reduction in alcohol consumption explains why the California Beer and Beverage Distributors Association found it necessary to contribute $10,000 last year to oppose Proposition 19.”
    LOL… nice burn. 😀 Bastards.
    I was high when I got my driver’s license at 16 and scored a 98. In hindsight, not my best move and I chalk it up to dumb “teenage invincibility complex”. However, the times I have been behind the wheel while high I’ve always driven safer, slower, and paid more attention to what I was doing. I know I’m not alone on this either. I’m not encouraging it though… just being honest. I think what I’m trying to say is, this report states what we’ve known on along.

  23. oh, and by they way…..as a productive member of society who could drink shots at seven or eight in the a.m.( i dont but my desire may have been handed down from family) consuming cannabis relieves my desire for the sip. cannabis, i believe, has helped me control any alcohol addiction . alcohol consumed my mother from the inside out and she ended up only a memory at way to early an age .in all my years knowin cannabis consumers , ive not known any who have suffered health issues as with alcohol..no one will ever tell me different….my employer lives with me now through drug testing so, now i battle to stay away from that firewater….yall, get a hit or two for me…peace to you all.

  24. that’s a no brainer. the only problem is the goverment, stuck or to stubburn or lobbest keep pot illegal. I’m dissabled and have pain every day. I, would move to Colorado and get out of the froozen north ut with the econney the way it is no can do. the day I,die the goverment will legalize pot. I,think they are wasting the tax payers money buy leaving it illgal.

  25. i drink cause i cant smoke due to piss tests and its ruining my family cause im an angry drunk but when i smoke whenever i get a chance between tests im cool as hell

  26. There is to much money being made by big business drug dealers, legal or illegal, and they won’t let the government do anything. As long as Harper is in power the laws will never be properly reviewed it all comes down to the almighty dollar. If they legalize growing for personal use and liscened the growers as they do hunters, you buy tags according to how much you grow they could create jobs and make money. This still doesn’t put money in the hands of the dealers who are in business now and people who are comfortable don’t like change!!

  27. Although this may be stupid to type, I used to be a regular cannabis user. I stopped a year ago about this time, mostly due to the fact that I had gotten a pretty good job. My dream is to become a police officer, and one job I might go for in a big city does hair follicle testing, so I knew I had to clean myself up.
    During my vacation from cannabis I’ve noticed that I do tend to drink more. Cannabis, like someone else stated before, substituted my social drinking many times. Do I like a good beer or a good Captain and Coke? Absolutely. But drinking is much more dangerous. People become violent and sloppy. And forget about that whole hangover aspect!
    With marijuana I felt more productive. I felt like I could write and study better. My focus was better. I felt more compelled to go into the gym. I looked at the smaller things in life and truly appreciated what I had in life. Some people call smoking pot a crutch, but who are they to say such a thing? Oh, you can drink a glass of wine after work but I cannot smoke a bowl without being scrutinized? Hypocrisy at its best.
    I truly do miss it. I’ve had dreams about it. I’ve been around it AND offered it, but I’ve always had the will power to say “No,” no matter how much I truly wanted to. I really hope people start pushing for legalization.
    I’d love to smoke again some day, but I cannot risk my job, hence I’ll drink on the weekends or after work I’ll sit back with a beer. I even noticed I smoke more cigarettes now since I stopped marijuana, too. I love smoking in general (cigarettes, pot, tobacco – I love the feeling, it’s like the stress melts off of my shoulders. But cigarettes are too unhealthy for me, so I’ve cut down to social occasions or moments of incredible stress. It baffles me how cigarettes are legal and hold no viable medical properties, whereas marijuana, despite the way people perceive it, fixes so many things and does no-to-minimal damage.
    As for driving, I… uh, know someone who used to. I am skeptical about saying these things on the internet, but whatever. Anyway, “he” was fine while driving. He got lost one time for a half an hour, but the quality of driving was fine. I’d rather get into casual toker who has smoked a join compared to a casual drinker who just had a six pack.
    I just pray (and I am Agnostic, so that just goes to show you how bad I want this) that it is legalized again.

  28. this article almost sounds as if you are trying to say that drving while high is better than driving while drunk. it isn’t. i’ve been in the car with people who were high and it was god awful, they get lost alot for one, and secondly their reaction time is slowed down so in my case we almost ended up hitting a light pole when trying to park. driving while under the influence of any substance like marijuana/alchohol/cocaine/sleeping pills WHATEVER, is inadvisable to say the least. i know that isn’t the aim of this article, but it sorta comes off that way.
    norml seems to spend alot of time trying to justify marijuanas usage by pointing out how much better than alchohol or cigarettes it is, when in reality alchohol and marijuana are basically in the same boat imo. and if it ever is legalized should probably be regulated in a similar fashion. both alchohol and marijuana are perfectly fine in moderation, neither one is in and of itself “dangerous”. but if you use it while operating any type of machinery it can cause a hazard, so can doing to much of it. sure you don’t run the same risk of becoming addicted to it, or overdosing on it, but we’ve all met people who have burned themselves out smoking weed.
    anyways, just so its said, i support full legalization of marijuana for both medicinal and recreational use.
    [Editor’s note: NORML points out that cannabis is far safer than alcohol because it so demonstrably true. If a person drinks 10-20 fluid ounces of distilled alcohol they’ve a good chance of going into a coma if not dying. There is no way for an individual to smoke enough cannabis to either go into a coma or die.
    NORML and other reform group’s narrative that cannabis is safer than alcohol is an important and effective polemical, because it so obvious.]

  29. The drunk driver speeds through the stop sign without seeing it.
    The stoned driver stops and patiently waits for it to turn green.
    I stopped at a stop sign but was looking at the red light 1 block ahead of me to turn green and did I ever laugh at myself thinking of the above saying!

  30. I just want to remind everyone here tha there is no such thing as a good driver. Only those who owe their life to the driver who was watching out for the other guy.

  31. Can you imagine if a diabetic had this much trouble and did , do to misunderstanding, fear , or flat out lying against something that saves lives. Should the diabetic be denied as well?

    [Editor’s note: 1) NO CAPS and 2) MI didn’t tax cannabis before the state started to crack down on retail access to medical cannabis this year.]

  33. Why just medical? The body doesn’t know if it is medical or recreational. The attributes of medical marijuana on the body are the same as recreational, no?

  34. Try this for stupid Amerikkka; all the dumb pukes who say cannabis is bad and alcohol good voted to invade Iraq without first actually checking and seeing if GEORGE BUSH is lying; that’s what’s wrong with Amerikkka. Dumb drunken pukes. If I ever hear another sarcastic thing said by another dumb enfranchised drunk white a-hole, I am gonna scream!!really LOUD. Lyle Courtsal

  35. I would have to say from personal experiance this sounds like a sound study. It makes perfect sense, Most people concentrate better while “high” and are more cautiouse, While drinking people loose thier sence and reaction times with over indulgence that is easy to achive, and feel invincible. While Mj users will just say nope I’m too “high”. Showing that common sence doesn’t magically dissapeer like with alchole! Really most people that use Mj are not dependent on alchole, Never suffer a hang over, And rarely if ever jeapordize others by thier actions, Unless you skip tour friend on the pass? The benifets of MJ way surpass the laws! The bio fules, The fibers, The plastics, The meds, The TRUTH!! That is what matters, I think Ron Paul might have the right ideas about how this country needs to think about it’s future.

  36. i took a trip 2 years ago that resulted in about a 700 mile straight thru drive. every time the road would fatigue my mind i took one puff of pot. the pot sat me straight up in my seat and completely restored my alertness and awareness. i dont condone some fool smoking a blunt and driving but to me the slight stimulation of one or two puffs was an asset to my driving ability..

  37. `Well, I can say after 42 years of smoking, driving while high off of pot makes me a much better driver, subduing any road rage that might occur while driving straight! That has to be a plus, nicer drivers on the road, heck yeah! Of course I do not drink that evil booze because number one, they are one of the biggest supporters of marijuana prohibition, and number two, I never liked the high, was a mean drunk, binge drinker, almost killed me twice! etc. Next time you’re all drinking your next beer, think of how you’re supporting marijuana prohibition by putting your money in their pockets. They’re probably laughing all the way to the bank. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Fools! Anywho, just finished a joint of headband, for the nausea, and am getting ready to spark up some permafrost, for good measure. My choice of drug! Always has been, always will be! I can get pot anytime no matter how illegal it is. The government makes sure we get ours even though we know how the game is played, you get caught, you pay the penalty. If it wasn’t for marijuana prohibition, maybe I wouldn’t have had such easy access to it in 1969! As an eleven year old! Do you want your eleven year old smoking pot? Try if you must, if they want to, your children will easily find it and guess what? Your beloved son or daughter are now potheads, not a bad thing to be considering we have cannabinoid receptor’s in our brain! There’s only one source of canniboids on the whole planet! Makes you wonder just how interconnected marijuana and humans are really meant to be, and how much good it can do for society as a whole!

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