Med. marijuana laws = 9 percent traffic-death decline, 5 percent beer-sales dip, study finds

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The subject of driving under the influence of marijuana has been much debated in these parts. A bill to set a THC driving limit was shelved in May, shortly before an HDNet report demonstrated pot-related driving impairment -- and in August, the Colorado Department of Transportation launched a drugged-driving campaign. Now, however, a new study suggests that traffic fatalities go down in states where medical marijuana is legal.

The paper, co-authored by University of Colorado Denver Professor Daniel Rees and Montana State University Assistant Professor D. Mark Anderson, looked at traffic fatalities nationwide between 1990 and 2009 -- and in the thirteen states that had legalized medical marijuana during that period, alcohol consumption for those between the ages of twenty and 29 declined, as did the number of highway deaths. The entire study is on view below, but here's a key excerpt:

Specifically, we find that traffic fatalities fall by nearly 9 percent after the legalization of medical marijuana. However, the effect of MMLs on traffic fatalities involving alcohol appears to be larger, and is estimated with more precision, than the effect of MMLs on traffic fatalities that did not involve alcohol. Likewise, we find that the estimated effects of MMLs on fatalities at night and on weekends (when alcohol consumption rises) are larger, and are more precise, than the estimated effects of MMLs on fatalities during the day and on weekdays.

Finally, the relationship between MMLs and more direct measures of alcohol consumption is examined. Using data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), we find that MMLs are associated with decreases in the number of drinks consumed, especially among 20- through 29-year-olds, providing additional evidence that alcohol is the mechanism by which traffic fatalities are reduced. Using data from the Beer Institute, we find that beer sales fall after a MML comes into effect, suggesting that marijuana substitutes for beer, the most popular alcoholic beverage among young adults.

The amount of beer-sales decline in medical marijuana states: 5.3 percent.

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Mason Tvert.
No surprise that this info has been embraced by Mason Tvert, whose organization, Safer Alternative For Enjoyable Entertainment (SAFER), has long held that alcohol is riskier than marijuana.

"We've been making the argument for years here in Colorado that allowing people to use marijuana is a safer alternative to alcohol, and that it would reduce alcohol-related problems," Tvert says. "This study is simply more evidence of that."

Tvert adds that the study's conclusion will likely arise during the campaign for the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act of 2012, for which he's a high-profile proponent. In his words, "The subject of DUID" -- driving under the influence of drugs -- "will be brought up, in all likelihood, and we expect this information to be part of that debate, part of the discussion."

As for why a large portion of the public continues to see driving under the influence of marijuana to be at least as dangerous as drinking and driving, if not more so, he argues that "many people don't have all the information surrounding the issue. We've seen a great deal of research that shows people who are under the influence of alcohol drive far more recklessly than normal, and people under the influence of marijuana drive far more cautiously than normal.

"That's not to say we support people driving while they're impaired," he stresses. "But the fact remains that people who are making the decision to use marijuana and are using less alcohol pose less of a problem to the State of Colorado and our citizens than those who are drinking, and we shouldn't be punishing them for making that choice."

Regarding the ballot measure, Tvert says that approximately 130,000 Coloradans have signed petitions to put it before voters in November 2012. The signature goal is 145,000, "and we hope to surpass that," he says.

Here's the Rees-Anderson study:

Medical Marijuana Laws, Traffic Fatalities and Alcohol Consumption Study

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More from our Marijuana archive: "THC blood test: Pot critic William Breathes nearly 3 times over proposed limit when sober."

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70 comments
Mjjoan 123
Mjjoan 123

I've been driving for 45 years and smoking marijuana for 40 of those years I have had 2 minor fender benders one was weather related and the other was in very heavy traffic in a large city., only a handful of speeding tickets and NEVER been busted for possession.

Azrael
Azrael

It's junk science as explained here http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories...

Lakersfan2784
Lakersfan2784

OK I didn't mean to sound like one of those tyrannical anti-smoking pansies because I actually do enjoy an occasional smoke as it has some health benefits both mental and physical but I only smoke organic cigarettes and never more than one a day, well I wouldn't say never, but I never do it beyond what is healthy and am certainly not addicted. Yes I was addicted to cigarettes at one point and it sucked hard but now I can enjoy one once in a while just to calm my nerves but I never smoke those arsenic sticks made by Phillip Morris. I know I sound like a total hypocrite. I take back what I said about organic tobacco cause Natives would smoke it for spiritual ritual and a sense of peace.

Lakersfan2784
Lakersfan2784

That article is a butch of mumbo jumbo and is unreadable. That person should go into the Guinness World Book of Records for the worst writer of all time. Blah blah blah rant rant rant. And who the f*** says medpot for christ's sake.

Lakersfan2784
Lakersfan2784

Never mind, cigarettes suck and they make me hack. Why doesn't the government just burn the Bill of Rights if they aren't going to follow it. They don't have a right to know what we put in our body 28 days ago. Harmful drugs like crack and crystal meth stay in your system for only 2 days so I guess we should do those instead (sarcasm). The government are assholes and our founding fathers would have them burned at the stake.

Robin Miller
Robin Miller

evidence!

Lakersfan2784
Lakersfan2784

The US government is the alcohol industries bitch. Trix are for kids, marijuana is for adults. Lets call it cannabis so all the racists don't get offended. Try going to the grocery store without wall paper made of alcohol products. We are adults who have a right to chose a substance that is harmless and has anti-oxidants or a substance that kills your liver. We are not juvenile delinquents we are responsible intelligent rational adults who are responsible enough to know when it is an appropriate time to smoke out and get happy and relaxed. I can go without it for days no problem and know that is 1% as addictive as cigarettes as I use to be addicted to that poisonous herbicide/insecticide. If it wasn't for God's gift to man I would still be addicted to those "organic" poison sticks. Have fun getting cancer all you "legal" drug users. Bend over for the alcohol industry just like the corrupt government does. Right... you know more about medicine than the most highly trained and experienced doctors. Ayn Rand would be proud of congress and their selfish corrupt evil reasoning. They should put you in the Oxford under hypocrisy.

Buddhartha
Buddhartha

Ronald Wilson Reagan = 6 6 6

Lakerfan2784
Lakerfan2784

Just to remind people, it is not in any way illegal to drive under the influence of Benadryl which is much more sedating and debilitating than marijuana so why can't you apply this to marijuana which in some way can make you a more able driver for some reason, it also makes driving fun and not a total drag.

Malcolm Kyle
Malcolm Kyle

Google MARIJUANA DRIVING STUDY. You'll see two common findings:

1. Drivers under the influence of marijuana are VERY SLIGHTLY impaired.

2. Unlike those under the influence of alcohol, marijuana consumers are aware they are VERY SLIGHTLY impaired and they CONSISTENTLY ADEQUATELY COMPENSATE by slowing down a little and being a little more cautious. That doesn’t mean they get in the fast lane on the interstate and drive 15 miles per hour. Marijuana makes you cautious, not crazy! Those Cheech and Chong movies were comedies, NOT documentaries!

* Fact: The Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, Hartford Hospital in Connecticut and the Universityof Iowa Carver College of Medicine document states that MARIJUANA DOES NOT CAUSE DANGEROUS DRIVING:

* Fact: When combined 2002 to 2005 data are compared with combined 2006 to 2009 data, the Nation as a whole experienced a statistically significant reduction in the rate of past year drugged driving (from 4.8 to 4.3 percent), as did seven States: Alaska, California, Florida, Hawaii, Iowa, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.  Four of these seven States have legalized medicinal marijuana, Alaska, Hawaii, Michigan and California.  

http://oas.samhsa.gov/2k10/205...

* Fact: California led the US to a nationwide, statistically significant reduction in the incidence of "drugged" driving during a time period when the number of patients claiming the protection of the California Compassionate Use Act and SB-420 increased by a factor of 10. 

http://stopthedrugwar.org/chro...

Donkey Hotay
Donkey Hotay

.... well then, they need to make Marijuana MANDATORY for all Drivers ....

... and Airline Pilots.

PS - Note to Mason: cut back a bit on the Twinkies and Funyuns

HTH.

Samdodge
Samdodge

Drunk drivers kill people, stoned drivers miss their off ramps.

Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts

Strong take, Samdodge. We're going to make it an upcoming Comment of the Day. Congrats.

Jdstratton
Jdstratton

I couldnt read it entirely because of the ads that popped up and would not go away unless clicked on.  Sorry, I don't click shit at random.

KaDargo
KaDargo

While substance abuse continues to be a big problem, the bigger problem is that people are abusing the wrong substances.

KaDargo
KaDargo

The country made a huge mistake when it raised prohibition on alcohol.  The mistake was compounded when prohibition was then lowered on cannabis. I read all the time about all the problems drunks cause.  I rarely read about any problems that stoners cause.

Alcohol kills daily.  Cannabis has yet to kill anyone...ever!

Pattyburton55
Pattyburton55

I am 62 years old NEVER drink but I smoke Marijuana. Won't ever quit reguardless off laws.. .

TheDman822
TheDman822

Why does it have to be medical dude!? It should've been legal rite from the start as it was here before us, alcohol had to be figured out how to make I think by some americant man!? Marijuana does nothing wrong, alcohol does all kind's of thing's wrong including ever soo very many death's but it's legal!? WTF dude!!! I soo wish to have lived in Native time's as then there would be no F-faced troller's to arrest people for smoking the natural and firewater wouldn't haven't have been! americants, what a bunch of true a-hole's ;) LOL. NFL 

Phil G
Phil G

Years ago two different Universities in Calif did a study where they both took 200 subjects divided them into two groups of 100 and gave one group a placebo and the other the most potent Pot they could find and then tested both groups in a diving simulator the mistakes bewteen the two groups were statistically insignifcant. CASE CLOSED.

Matt in Boulder
Matt in Boulder

Do you have a link to that study?  It should be more widely distributed to legislators and the general public. 

Phil G
Phil G

that's driving simulator,dam keyboard LOL

Peter Mangan
Peter Mangan

When I smoke I won't even think about driving. After ten beers I'd get right in. Thankfully being a Marijuana smoker I rarely want to drink. Both alter my reality, but one doesn't destroy my body or help me make bad decisions.

Peter Mangan
Peter Mangan

When I smoke I won't even think about driving. After ten beers I'd get right in. Thankfully being a Marijuana smoker I rarely want to drink. Both alter my reality, but one doesn't destroy my body or help me make bad decisions.

Arexshortpaw
Arexshortpaw

For me, when I'm smoking a bowl or whatnot of mj, I don't even want to drive because of the fact that for one, I can barely walk (the world looks like it's a fuckin boat lol), two, I feel like I would wreck, three... I'm high, why would I want to drive while high??? Of course like you said, if I was drunk, yeah I would probably get right in. When you're high, you take your decisions seriously, and make decisions that most likely won't kill you, you're more cautious, and even if I'm in the car with someone while high, it always feels like they are going too damn fast, so I would probably go slower than normal and take more caution in my driving if I were behind the wheel.

You're correct about your last statement, both marijuana and alcohol alter your brain and your perception of things, but marijuana does not kill you no matter how much you take. All in all, legalize this shit.

Darkangell
Darkangell

The truth is there's always going to b a down side to everything in this world no mater the decision u just gota pick the lesser of all the evils and and consider the benefits of how many people world wide that can be helped. Everyone's just thinking selfishly about mj.. enough said.

Shane Engeland
Shane Engeland

Seems like more of the same. Good information that can damage someone's business. If not the pharmaceutical system, then the booze. This comes after that horrible letter stating why the petition for more research was ignored, even with the requisite number of signatures. The government treats all supporters like Woodstock brand potheads, and I don't feel that anything will change until the next generation of politicians take office. These old guys are still afraid that marijuana will make white women get loose with black jazz musicians, regardless of evidence to the contrary.

Boycott Progessive Insurance
Boycott Progessive Insurance

If this study is correct, why does SAFER'S "legalization" ballot init. creates a new constitutional crime called "Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana"? They say their language just preserves the status quo, but in reality, the status quo has no language in statute called "Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana". And the status quo certainly has no crime regarding DUIM in the Constitution (giving it more weight than statute). Since the SAFER init. is almost entirely funded by Progressive Insurance founder Peter Lewis, do you think that these insurance companies stand to make money off of higher insurance rates for mj smokers?

Their ballot init. is going down. No one will vote for language like that, espec. considering we've got studies like this coming out. Time for MPP/NORML/Sensible/SAFER to stand up and tell the truth about cannabis, instead of continuing to buy into the government's lies about mj.

Duncan20903
Duncan20903

 I have 21 letters, each issued annually, congratulating me for being such a safe driver and earning the lowest possible insurance rates. In 34 1/2 years of being a Cannabinoidian I've never been pulled over on suspicion of driving impaired. There's good reason for that, I simply don't do it. My advice is that if you're worried about getting arrested for impaired driving that you should stop doing that.

I really find it disgusting when people claim that if a proposed re-legalization law isn't perfect that we should maintain the idiocy of absolute prohibition. Coloradoans should notice that it was the very same ring of clowns in conjunction with the medicinal cannabis growers for profit which were primarily responsible for the defeat of Prop 19 last year in California. Don't let these Know Nothing potheads hand the Know Nothing prohibitionists a similar victory in Colorado. Tell them to pound sand.

Messia
Messia

Ok both my parents and myself have a combined 75 years of being Cannabinoidian never pulled over for suspicion of driving impaired and yet we've been high the whole time, I win. 

Messia
Messia

Vaporizing over an eight of marijuana while taking hash oil hits for a period of 5-6 hours didn't do it, so not sure what will. 

Duncan20903
Duncan20903

Yes, you win. You win the right to remain a criminal because we're never going to win a majority of people by defending the right to driving while impaired. Tell me, do you think that I think enjoying a moderate amount of cannabis makes me impaired? That seems to be the basis for your wholly wrong conclusions.

If you've never been too high to drive then you're doing it wrong.

Guest
Guest

Honestly, boycotting Progressive?  Peter Lewis, a guy that is giving it his all to change the view of cannabis?  Just because he doesn't do it like you would, that makes him bad? What is wrong with you pot people?  Do you not want anyone on your side?  You seem to want to boycott anyone who steps up to help that has a job and some cash to burn. Keep boycotting people and talking bad about everyone, then who is going help you make a difference?  You know it all?  You can do this better than anyone?  THEN DO IT! Oh yeah, you don't have the money, the outreach, the base, the media, the elected officials, or the patients behind you to make any change. So, sit back and just ride and shut up or come up with a better plan.   Yeah, that’s what I thought…

Messia
Messia

im pretty sure a lot of them have the money these days lol 

Agent Cromwell
Agent Cromwell

Can you back this up?Sounds pretty plausible to me. Creating another revenue stream for law enforcement to criminalize more people, then your insurance goes up once a cop pulls you over after you light up at a stoplight.I can see that.Probably need to look at this bill a little closer before I get behind it.

Duncan20903
Duncan20903

You act as if you think that insurance rates don't skyrocket today if you're convicted of driving while impaired. If you don't want to be arrested for driving while impaired, just don't do that. If you're lighting up at a stoplight and you're behind the wheel you deserve to have your insurance rates skyrocket.

Duncan20903
Duncan20903

You are simply clueless. All that the people on the other side of the table see in your posts is someone trying to rationalize your going out and driving while impaired.

I reiterate my assertion above.

Messia
Messia

How ignorant. You obviously have never tried smoking marijuana while driving before. 

Justin
Justin

Why would insurance companies make more on premiums?  They don't ask if I drink when I apply for car insurance why would they ask if I smoke pot?

Alicia
Alicia

they could ask if you have MML and then charge you higher rates because they see that you may drive under the influence of Marijuana...that's all marijuana is about...who's going to make money off of it and who stands to lose the most.  it's a plant and no one but those in the industry make money off it and those imprisoning people in the name of the war on drugs.  it's a money losing drug unless you're a privatized prison contracted by the federal government and that's why it's still illegal in the eyes of the federal government which actually trumps state laws...they're just letting a few get away with it and even then, the federal government raids dispensaries.  just a way to be under the man's thumb...

Messia
Messia

good thing the most comprehensive study ever on this issue states that MMJ actually makes highways safer, and the people drive better high. 

Dwilker
Dwilker

Except, if this passes then people won't need red cards, at which point they can't differentiate between smokers and non-smokers.  

A lot of the reason that line was put in (from my understanding) is that the opposition to the legalization attempt in California were able to be very successful in scaring people into thinking that people would now be able to drive high, go to work high, etc. even though that's a bunch of bunk.  Writing the proposed amendment the way they did cuts this line of argument off at the pass.  

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