Reports: Motor vehicle deaths rise with legal cannabis marketplaces

aiexpress – A recent study conducted by the University of Illinois Chicago School of Public Health utilized death certificate data to examine the mortality rates in states that have legalized recreational cannabis dispensaries, in comparison to states that only offer access to medical cannabis.

The researchers at UIC discovered a significant rise in crash fatalities in four out of the seven states analyzed in the study, where recreational markets for marijuana were legalized. On average, the presence of these markets was linked to a 10% increase in deaths caused by motor vehicle accidents.

Samantha Marinello
Samantha Marinello

According to Samantha Marinello, the lead author of the study, states with legal recreational cannabis should consider investing in policies and public health initiatives to address the potential harm of driving under the influence. Marinello, who holds a PhD in Health Policy and Administration and an MS in Biostatistics, believes that raising awareness about the dangers of driving while under the influence of cannabis is crucial.

According to Marinello, a postdoctoral research associate with the division of health policy and administration at the UIC School of Public Health, the significant rise of motor vehicle accident deaths by 10 percent in relation to recreational cannabis markets is alarming. This finding is worrisome as previous studies have already established the negative impact of cannabis on driving ability and the prevalence of driving under the influence among regular cannabis users.

Marinello and Lisa Powell, the director of the division and UIC distinguished professor, conducted an analysis on the implementation of legal recreational cannabis markets in seven states. These states include Alaska, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. The analysis specifically focused on three areas that have been associated with cannabis use but are not well-understood: motor vehicle accidents, suicide, and opioid overdose. To gather data, death certificates from 2009 to 2019 were examined.


The researchers conducted a comparison between the trends in deaths associated with each cause of death in states with legal markets and states with comprehensive medical cannabis programs. They specifically looked at the death rates in states that had similar trends prior to implementing markets.

According to Marinello, the researchers took precautions to ensure a fair comparison between states. They wanted to avoid comparing states that had vastly different mortality trends or social ideologies. To achieve this, they carefully examined each state and its corresponding outcome. They then identified comparison states that had existing medical cannabis programs and similar pre-trends. This method allowed them to conduct a thorough analysis and draw meaningful conclusions.

Crash fatalities in Colorado saw a significant increase of 16%, while Oregon experienced a rise of 22%. Similarly, Alaska witnessed a substantial 20% increase, and California recorded a notable 14% surge in crash fatalities.

According to the authors, the findings indicate that the legalization of recreational cannabis may have an unexpected impact on the number of individuals driving under the influence of cannabis and the related accidents resulting in fatalities. Therefore, they suggest that there should be specific policies in place to address this issue and reduce instances of driving while intoxicated with cannabis.

The researchers discovered that there was no indication that the introduction of recreational markets had any impact on suicides. This finding is particularly noteworthy considering that cannabis use has been linked to the development of depressive disorders and an increased risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

Recreational markets, on average, led to an 11% decrease in opioid overdose deaths. The reduction in fatalities varied from 3% to 28% across all seven states.

Marinello emphasized the importance of states considering legalization in relation to the potential impact it could have on reducing opioid overdose fatalities.

According to Marinello, this study presents evidence that policymakers should take into account when considering the legalization of recreational cannabis markets. It highlights both the potential benefits and harms associated with such a decision.

The journal Social Science & Medicine recently published a study titled ‘The impact of recreational cannabis markets on motor vehicle accident, suicide, and opioid overdose fatalities’.

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