BY: MIROSLAV TOMOSKI
A recent study out of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health — published in the American Journal of Public Health — shows that states that have legalized medical-marijuana reduced the number of drug-related car accidents.
The study was conducted across 18 states and analyzed data from 1993 to 2013. The data revealed that the number of opioid-related collisions were reduced in the years after medical marijuana laws were enacted.
Researchers believe that this is the result of medical marijuana acting as a substitute for opioids which are often prescribed as pain killers.
“We would expect the adverse consequences of opioid use to decrease over time in states where medical marijuana use is legal, as individuals substitute marijuana for opioids in the treatment of severe or chronic pain,” said June H. Kim, the study’s lead author.
Among fatal accidents that included marijuana across the country, Kim also found that, “25 percent [of drivers] died in states before an operational law went into effect, and 33 percent died in states that had never passed a medical marijuana law.”
However, another Mailman study compared data from around the world and found that marijuana users were more likely to be involved in an accident than those who drive sober.
While marijuana accounts for the majority of drug-related collisions, alcohol still tops the list overall with only 11% of drivers testing positive for non-alcoholic substances.
Meanwhile, the American Automobile Association Foundation for Traffic Safety has said that marijuana related accidents has doubled in Washington since it became one of the first states to legalize recreational use in 2012.
But the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) maintains that it is not clear whether drivers under the influence of marijuana are the ones responsible for the majority of collisions or that the drug itself is ultimately responsible.
“In driving simulator tests,” the organization’s website states, “this impairment is typically manifested by subjects decreasing their driving speed and requiring greater time to respond to emergency situations,” claiming that high drivers are often slower and more careful.
Many researchers draw their data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, where the statistics on impaired driving includes collisions reports for drivers 12 or older, so experience and actually being able to see over the steering wheel could also play a role in these accidents.
Half of the 50 states and the District of Columbia have enacted medical or recreational marijuana laws as of Election Day 2016.
(The Plaid Zebra does not condone impaired driving of any kind)