A Canadian public health study found that states in the US which have legalized recreational marijuana had no impact on accident rates.
The study was conducted by a team of doctors and researchers. It was written for the Senate and published this week by the University of British Columbia.
Looking at data on road accident deaths in Washington and Colorado, there is no significant change after legalization, compared to other eight states that didn’t legalize cannabis.
One of the study’s authors, Michael-John Milloy (University of British Columbia) explains:
“The reassuring thing is that we did not see, in the evidence that we reviewed, any significant increases in driving fatalities or accidents associated with legalization, and I think that’s something that we can probably expect when legalization rolls out sometime later this year.”
THC Tests Are Not Accurate
The problem with linking accidents to drivers that tested positive for THC is that the substance can be detected even after a month after using pot, so it can’t be linked to an accident, added Milloy:
“The tests cannot indicate whether someone was using or intoxicated with THC or cannabis at the time of the accident.”
Another author of the study, Rebecca Haines-Saah (University of Calgary) explains that:
“We know people may have THC in their bloodstream, but they may not have been impaired at the time of the crash.”
She added that depending on the fatty tissue each person has, THC can remain in a person’s bloodstream from 72 hours to up to a month.
Alcohol-related Road Deaths Decreased in States Where Medical Marijuana Was Legalized
An interesting finding shows that states that have legalized medical marijuana have seen a fall in alcohol-related road deaths. Study authors believe that rates of drunk driving will fall because marijuana will replace some of the alcohol consumption. However, Milloy recommends not to drive under the influence of any substance:
“We absolutely need some general awareness that you shouldn’t be driving high. I think there is some hope that as cannabis displaces alcohol in recreational substance use, we will see changes in rates of alcohol-related driving.”
Both authors added that drivers that use marijuana are better than those impaired by alcohol:
“Alcohol is a disinhibitor. It makes us make bad decisions, or allows us to make bad decisions, where cannabis does not, in general, have the same impact on people. At the same time, both cannabis and alcohol do degrade the physical and mental skills required to drive a vehicle.”
Saah concluded that the data they have analyzed show that legalizing pot is “not going to be a public health crisis.”
Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.