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24 June 2017, 12:55 | Violet Powell
Study finds possible link between legalized recreational pot use and risk of car crashes
A new study finds there is an increase in auto accident insurance claims in states that have approved the sale of marijuana.
Kenton Brine, President of the NW Insurance Council, said the results in the 3 states with legal pot were surprisingly higher.
A studypublished previous year in the same journal reported that the enactment of medical marijuana legalization laws is associated with a reduction in traffic fatalities compared to other states, particularly among younger drivers.
Both medical and recreational use of marijuana are legal in Massachusetts, Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Oregon, Nevada, California and Maine.
In the coming years, the HDLI hopes more research will help sharpen focus and assess how legalized marijuana use might be changing the risk of crashes with injuries. A urine test, the current measure of whether a driver may be impaired by marijuana, will detect THC, however there is now no scientific consensus on what level of THC constitutes impaired driving.
"Some studies have found that using the drug could more than double crash risk, while others, including a large-scale federal case-control study, have failed to find a link between marijuana use and crashes".
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A Columbia University study, which analysed data from 1985 to 2014, shows that states which have legalized marijuana for medical purposes had a lower traffic fatality rate. It would also consist of members from marijuana advocacy groups, state educators, and state health officials.
Doctors with Seton Healthcare recently published a study finding that states with legalized recreational marijuana don't have a greater increase rate of auto crash deaths. In Oregon, that number is 4.5 percent, and in Colorado there's been a 14 percent increase.
The studies took distinct angles on marijuana and driving, and it's possible that fender benders in Colorado have gone up since pot was legalized even as fatalities stayed flat.
Experts in the Highway Loss Data Institute study said past researchers were not able to "definitively connect marijuana use with real-world crashes".
The HDLI didn't just look at those three states. The results of that one should be ready in 2020, so I hope you don't mind waiting. Neighboring states with similar fluctuations in claims were used for comparison.
Armentano is the deputy director of NORML (the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) and an adviser for Freedom Leaf. "The HLDI's findings on the early experience in Colorado, Oregon and Washington should give other states eyeing legalization pause".
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