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Traffic Fatalities Fell After States Legalized MarijuanaMany marijuana opponents predicted that legalization of the drug would increase car accident fatalities. Unexpectedly, however, the opposite effect happened, according to a recent study conducted by researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. 

Are traffic related fatalities going down in states with legalized marijuana?

Twenty-eight states now have laws legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes. After analyzing more than 1 million traffic fatalities across the United States from 1985 to 2014, researchers found that states saw traffic fatalities drop by an average of 11 percent after legalizing marijuana. The decreases continued and now these states have a traffic fatality rate that is, on average, 26 percent lower than states that continue to criminalize marijuana.

Those ages 25–44 represent a large number of medical marijuana users. This age group saw the biggest declines, as fatalities dropped by 12 percent. Those ages 15–24 saw an 11 percent reduction, while those age 45 and older saw a 9 percent decline.

There were increases in traffic deaths in some states, however. Fatalities rose in Connecticut and Rhode Island after marijuana became legal.

California also saw a gradual increase after traffic deaths dropped by 16 percent following legalization. This also happened in New Mexico, where traffic fatalities dropped by 17 percent following legalization and then slowly rose back up.

While the decreases may have been surprising to researchers, they actually mimic the findings of a similar study published in The Journal of Law and Economics in 2013. One year after marijuana was legalized, states saw traffic fatalities decrease by as much as 11 percent.

Benjamin Hansen – one of the authors of the 2013 study – made the statement that public safety seemed to improve with increased access to marijuana. But is this statement true? Does marijuana use actually make people drive better?

Hansen clarified that both drugs and alcohol are known to impair driving. So why do traffic fatalities decrease now that marijuana is legal?

While the study shows an association, it is not a direct correlation. It cannot prove that marijuana increase causes traffic deaths to decrease. So could it be a coincidence, then?

Possible Causes for the Drops in Traffic Fatalities

The authors of both studies explain why marijuana use could be causing car accident deaths to drop. First, it is believed that those who use marijuana are more aware of their impairment than those who are intoxicated by alcohol. Another possible cause for the drop in traffic deaths is that instead of drinking alcohol in bars, marijuana users prefer to enjoy the drug in the comfort of their own home – without attempting to drive on the roadways.

Marijuana Dispensaries in California

The most current data – from 2015 – shows that there are 2,756 marijuana dispensaries in California. This is more than all other states combined. The state with the second-highest number of dispensaries was Colorado, with 528. Most other states have anywhere from a handful to a few hundred.  With the recent legalization of recreational marijuana use in California, more Californians than ever will now have access to legalized pot.

In California, the marijuana market brings in $845 million a year in sales. This is more than twice the amount Colorado brings in, approximately $408 million between April 2015 and May 2016. It is believed that these dollar amounts are actually much higher than reported due to the unregulated nature of this market.

Sales per California dispensary, however, are lower than you may expect. They vary due to location. In San Bernardino County, the average is $22,000 per dispensary. Not too far away in Orange County, that number is more than triple, at $65,000 per dispensary.

With the recent legalization of recreational-use marijuana, the consumption of marijuana is expected to increase in California in 2018.  With increased usage comes the need for responsible consumption. The car accident lawyers of Nadrich & Cohen, LLP encourage anyone who has consumed a marijuana edible or otherwise ingested pot, should never get behind the wheel of a car until the effect has dissipated.

If you or a loved one has been injured due to the recklessness of an intoxicated driver, contact the auto accident attorneys of Nadrich & Cohen now for a free and confidential consultation.