One of the big bullet points to keep marijuana illegal is the increase in the number of stoned drivers on our nation’s roads.
The growing trend of legalized marijuana gets the blame for a rise in car crashes in marijuana states. The Highway Loss Data Institute is investigating now that the number of collision claims has risen by between 4.5 and 16 percent in several states where weed has been made legal for recreational use.
The new study finds an increase in accident insurance claims in the three states that have approved the sale of marijuana for recreational use. According the Highway Loss Data Institute, the number of vehicle collisions reported to insurance companies in Colorado, Oregon and Washington is 3 percent higher than what would have been expected if those states had not made it legal to buy pot.
To determine whether collision rates are higher now in Colorado, Oregon and Washington than they would be if recreational pot use was still illegal, the institute compared the collision claim rates before and after legalization with the collision claim rates of comparable states where pot is still illegal. For example, Colorado was compared to Nebraska, Utah and Wyoming.
The figures compare the accident claim figures between January of 2012 and October of 2016, and the numbers are hard to argue with.
“We’re concerned about what we’re seeing,” Matt Moore of the Highway Loss Data Institute told CNBC.
“We see strong evidence of an increased crash risk in states that have approved recreational marijuana sales.”
However, there are other factors here that could play a role, including the increased prevalence of smartphones (and the distracted driving that often comes with them), as well as an increase of the number of cars on the road. The study also did not look at highway fatality rates in the states that legalized marijuana.
Driving while intoxicated — either by alcohol or any other substance — is still obviously illegal, and if a driver fails a field sobriety test they can be charged with a crime regardless of whether their inebriation is due to a bottle of booze or a joint. That said, there is no established test specifically for marijuana intoxication, which makes the cause impossible to nail down.