Researchers from Columbia University have uncovered a positive trend among states with legally accessible cannabis. According to the data, states with medical cannabis laws have seen lower traffic fatality rates than states without legal medical cannabis.
After reviewing traffic data from 1985 to 2014, the researchers concluded that traffic fatalities dropped an average of 11 percent after medical cannabis laws were passed.
The study, titled US Traffic Fatalities, 1985-2014, and Their Relationship to Medical Marijuana Laws was recently published in the American Journal of Public Health, which is a respectable and influential medical journal circulating among American physicians and regulators.
These findings are majorly important for future debates on cannabis legalization, as those opposed to cannabis laws often claim that the greatest risks cannabis poses to public health are increased youth exposure and increased traffic fatalities.
One of the key results is that while only 7 of 19 states experienced statistically-significant reductions in traffic fatalities after adopting medical cannabis laws, there was a marked decrease specifically among those aged 15 to 44.
Anti-cannabis groups are sure to point to the fact that other localized factors are involved in traffic death statistics. Still, the states that saw the biggest death rate reductions are amongthe states that are most adamant about their medical cannabis laws. These magnificent seven are Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington.
In total, these states had a combined population of 66.844 million in 2014, when the entire American population was listed as 318.9 million according to census data. So in other words, the study concluded that states with a combined 20 percent of the US population were experiencing significant decreases in traffic fatalities, all corresponding to the enactment of medical cannabis laws.
Additionally, the researchers did not differentiate between states with robust cannabis accessibility versus states that had passed limited medical programs. The seven states listed above have arguably the most progressive cannabis laws in the nation. And to top it off, the two states that saw an increase in traffic mortality rates were Connecticut and Rhode Island, with a combined population of only 4.652 million people.
As good scientists will say, these results are only the beginning, and further research is necessary for American states to make actionable decisions in the future. However, the researchers from Columbia University (as well as the co-authors from UC Davis and Boston University) are extremely confident that their report will help influence policy decisions associated with medical cannabis, even if other local factors assisted with the overall decreases in traffic death rates.