At first, marijuana legalization in some states seems to have driven up the death toll along American highways, a new study finds. But rather than continue to unleash its wrath and contribute to a body count well above what was typically experienced in those areas, this increase eventually returned to normal.
Although researchers cannot explain how or why this happened, it certainly adds to the lengthy conversation about whether cannabis legalization really does make it more treacherous on the roads.
Marijuana has been legalized for either medicinal or recreational use in over half of the United States. It seems that every time a new jurisdiction is added to the rapidly expanding list of progressive states, there is always an outcry from public health officials who are worried about stoned driving causing an explosion in motor vehicle accidents and subsequently the death of innocent bystanders.
But a study published in the latest journal Addiction shows that while there is a little hell being raised on the roadways during the initial few months following legalization—an increase in accidents that extends even into neighboring states—the chaos sort of returns to normal within a year.
“In the year following implementation of recreational cannabis sales, traffic fatalities temporarily increased by an average of one additional traffic fatality per million residents in both legalizing US states of Colorado, Washington and Oregon and in their neighboring jurisdictions,” the study reads.
But let’s be clear, most of the research we have on this subject shows that marijuana legalization does not make a significant difference in roadway safety. Some studies show that motor vehicle accidents are slightly higher in states that have legalized, while others reveal no statistical difference.
Even some of the most profound research we have on the correlation of marijuana legalization and highway horrors has determined that marijuana legalization is not responsible for any sort of uptick in traffic fatalities.
As it was pointed out in a recent article from The Verge, this doesn’t necessarily mean that all of the evidence we have on the topic is contradictory. All of the studies have approached the equation a little differently than the other. There are just too many variables involved to for anyone one method to be considered gospel at this point. But as more states give way to legal weed—something that will happen more this year—researchers believe the nation will start to gain a better understanding of what kind of impact marijuana legalization actually has on the roads.