Does Legalization Increase Traffic Fatalities? New study’s data is flawed

Jay Lauren

Proper coding needed to determine the true impact of legal cannabis in traffic incidents

The Cannabis Business Alliance (CBA)  has released a statement in response to a recent insurance study by the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) linking the legalization of recreational marijuana with an increase in traffic accidents reported to insurers.
“There is no clear evidence linking adult-use marijuana to an increase in traffic incidents or fatalities,” said Kevin Gallagher, Executive Director of the Cannabis Business Alliance. “Prior to 2014, proper coding did not designate cannabis use in traffic incidents, and this issue persists even to this day, with many studies lumping cannabis use with prescription and illicit drugs such as opioids. While the HLDI has released a study that seems to find an increase, studies from the American Journal of Public Health and Columbia University have found that incidents were not statistically different or had decreased significantly. Unfortunately, what we are seeing with the HLDI report is just another attempt to incite reefer madness, this time for the benefit of the auto insurance industry,” Gallagher said.
The HLDI is a non-profit research organization funded by auto insurance companies. Contrary to the findings of the HLDI, researchers at the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH) released a study in April 2017, with compelling evidence which combats the claims of the insurance research organization.
In an effort to evaluate car crash fatality rates in the first two states with legalized adult-use marijuana, AJPH researchers used the US Fatality Analysis Reporting System to compare year-over-year changes in car crash fatality rates before and after the legalization of recreational marijuana in Washington and Colorado. The study concluded that just three years after the legalization of recreational marijuana, changes in car crash fatality rates for Washington and Colorado were not statistically different from those in similar states without recreational marijuana legalization.
The findings of the HDLI are inconsistent with both the Colorado Department of Transportation and Colorado State Patrol who have previously reported a decrease in the number of driving impaired accidents since adult-use cannabis was legalized. The State of Colorado and the marijuana industry have partnered to initiate several drugged driving education campaigns to raise awareness about the dangers and laws surrounding driving while under the influence of cannabis including “Drive High, Get a D.U.I.” amongst others.
A 2016 study by researchers at Columbia University examined traffic fatalities in 19 states before and after enacting medical marijuana laws. Although on average there was an 11 percent reduction in fatality rates, the results varied across states. Seven states saw a reduction in fatalities, while two had an increase, and the other 10 didn’t change.
Gallagher added: “Connecting the legalization of adult-use marijuana to an increase in traffic incidents is a belligerent move by the auto insurance industry. As we work to combat these claims, the cannabis industry continues its effort in educating consumers on the laws surrounding driving. It is never appropriate to operate any vehicle while under the influence of marijuana.”

About the Cannabis Business Alliance (CBA)

The Cannabis Business Alliance (CBA) encourages sensible policies that stimulate economic development and consumer transparency for the medical and retail marijuana industry. CBA promotes best business practices through advising and communicating with its members and other industry representatives, thereby invigorating the communities we serve. CBA also supports education and safety to further protect employees and purchasers within regulated marijuana commerce. For more information, visit

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