The Marijuana Revolution is on a roll that cannot be stopped. 2016 closed with 28 states having legalized medical marijuana and residents in eight states having legalized recreational weed. Most notably, legislatures in Pennsylvania and Ohio passed medical marijuana laws without bringing votes to the people, while residents in California overwhelmingly passed Prop 64 (recreational legalization), which could add $1 billion, or more, in annual tax and licensing revenue to the state.
Safety remains the primary reason why the DEA and lawmakers on Capitol Hill have held off on rescheduling marijuana for medical purposes. Aside from a lack of approved clinical trial data — the Food and Drug Administration hasn’t exactly been forthcoming with trials designed to test the medical capabilities of cannabis — regulators have been concerned with the possibility of pot falling into the hands of adolescents, or what might happen if an impaired individual gets behind the wheel of a vehicle.
According to a new study published online in the American Journal of Public Health in November by a team of nine researchers, a surprising trend emerged in medical marijuana legal states.
After the team of researchers reviewed U.S. traffic fatalities between 1985 and 2014 using the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, the data showed that, on average, medical marijuana legal states had lower traffic fatality rates than non-medical marijuana legal states. This paralleled a 2013 study from three researchers that was published in the Journal of Law and Economics, which showed an 8% to 11% decline in traffic fatalities in the year immediately following the legalization of marijuana.
As stated in the abstract of the recently released study published in AJPH,
“Medical marijuana laws were associated with immediate reductions in traffic fatalities in those aged 15 to 24 and 25 to 44 years, and with additional yearly gradual reductions in those aged 25 to 44 years. However, state-specific results showed that only seven states experienced post-MML (medical marijuana legal) reductions. Dispensaries were also associated with traffic fatality reductions in those aged 25 to 44 years.”
For instance, both California and New Mexico saw their traffic deaths fall by 16% and 17%, respectively, immediately following the passage of medical marijuana laws in the states.