Report: Traffic Fatalities Decrease In States With Medical Cannabis

There may be a link between lower numbers of vehicular deaths and states passing medicinal marijuana laws.

According to a Columbia University study released this month in the American Journal of Public Healthstates that had enacted such laws saw on average an 11% reduction in traffic deaths.

Compared with states without medicinal marijuana laws, these fatality numbers were 26% lower.

Researchers used data from the years 1985-2014 from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, a nationwide census of traffic fatalities info managed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.


Reductions in fatalities significantly affected people aged 15 to 44, according to a press release published by the researchers, particularly those between 25 to 44 years old. This latter group represents a great percentage of registered medicinal patients.

“Specifically, the researchers observed an 11% reduction of among those aged 15 to 24 years, 12% for ages 25 to 44, and 9% for those 45 years and older,” the press release reported. “Operational dispensaries were also associated with a significant reduction in traffic fatalities in those aged 25 to 44 years at 5%.”

“This finding suggests that the mechanisms by which medical marijuana laws reduce traffic fatalities mostly operate in those younger adults, a group also frequently involved in alcohol-related traffic fatalities,” added Julian Santaella-Tenorio, a doctoral student and co-author of the study, in the press release.

However, not all states with medicinal laws experienced death declines.

After initial decreases in fatalities in California and New Mexico following passage of medicinal laws, the number of fatalities in those two states then gradually rose. Researchers said this was a sign of needing to continue the study.