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Analysis: State-Legal Cannabis Not Correlated with Increased Traffic Fatalities

Changes in the state-legal status of cannabis are not associated with rising motor vehicle fatalities, according to an analysis by the news agency Quartz Media LLC.

Researchers affiliated with Quartz Advisors assessed trends in fatal motor vehicle accidents in four legalization states – California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada – as compared to five control states: Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska, and Wyoming. Researchers analyzed data from 2016 to 2019. They excluded data from 2020 and 2021, which they determined to be “anomalous,” because the US as a whole experienced a 19 percent spike in traffic safety deaths during those years.

In the four legal states assessed, traffic deaths fell by an average of 12 percent in the three years immediately following the adoption of adult-use marijuana legalization. By contrast, deaths increased nearly two percent over this same time in the five control states. Nationwide, traffic fatalities decreased 10.6 percent between 2016 and 2019.

“Traffic fatality rates did not increase in any of the four states that legalized in 2016 during that three-year period,” their analysis reported. “Three of the four states saw a significant decrease in vehicle deaths over that span, while the rate in Maine showed no change. Massachusetts saw the biggest drop, as rates fell 28.6 percent in the three years following legalization.”

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