A new study from the University of Illinois reveals a 10% increase in fatal car accidents following adult-use legalization across seven states.
The study authors used data from U.S. death certificates from 2009 to 2019 to estimate the impact of recreational markets on fatalities from motor vehicle accidents, suicide and opioid overdose in seven states: Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Nevada, California and Massachusetts. States with comprehensive medical cannabis programs with similar pre-trends in deaths were used as comparisons.
The results revealed what the authors call a “substantial increases” in crash fatalities in Colorado (16%), Oregon (22%), Alaska (20%) and California (14%).
“To see a 10% increase in motor vehicle accident deaths associated with recreational markets is concerning,” study author Samantha Marinello of the UIC School of Public Health told SciTech Daily. “Previous studies have found cannabis impairs driving ability and that driving while high is fairly common among regular cannabis users.”
The study also revealed that legalization had no effect on suicide rates in the states studied.
However, cannabis legalization did correlate to a drop in opioid overdose deaths. According to the report, most states saw a relative reduction in opioid overdose deaths that ranged between 3% and 28%.
On average, recreational markets were associated with an 11% reduction in opioid overdose fatalities.