Last year, Massachusetts voted to legalize medical marijuana. Since the vote, many safety groups have wondered about the impact legalizing medical marijuana would have on the rate of car accidents in the state. There has been a lot of debate surrounding the safety of allowing medical marijuana users to drive but a new study may be able to address some of those concerns.
As more states are passing medical marijuana laws, a new study looked at the impact these laws had on fatal car accidents in these states. The study found that states that legalized medical marijuana or recreational marijuana saw a decrease in fatal car accidents. Specifically, fatal car accidents declined by eight to 11 percent the first year after the law went into effect, and fatalities continued to drop by 10 to 13 percent after fours years of having the law.
While the study did not analyze traffic fatalities in Massachusetts because the state just recently legalized medical marijuana, researchers believe that the state should see a similar trend in fatal car accidents in the next few years.
The study reported that there are a few reasons why legalizing marijuana results in a decline in fatal car accidents. One reason could be that people who use marijuana are less likely to drive afterwards because most people don't use marijuana in public places. Researchers said the other reason could be that people who used to drive drunk are now driving under the influence of marijuana and may be practicing safer driving behaviors than they would if they were intoxicated.
While there is a correlation between marijuana legalization and fewer fatal car accidents, the researchers said that using marijuana and then driving is still very dangerous. Previous studies have found that driving under the influence of marijuana still doubles the risk of being in a car accident compared to drivers who are sober.
Even if marijuana legalization leads to fewer car accidents in Massachusetts, the state may still need to consider passing new laws that address the legal amount of marijuana a driver can have in their system as well as require other guidelines for medical marijuana users to keep the roads safe.
Source: The Boston Globe, "Do medical -marijuana laws save lives on the road?" Chris Berdik, Aug. 11, 2013