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Safety remains the primary reason why the DEA and lawmakers on Capitol Hill have held off on rescheduling marijuana for medical purposes. Aside from a lack of approved clinical trial data -- the Food and Drug Administration hasn't exactly been forthcoming with trials designed to test the medical capabilities of cannabis -- regulators have been concerned with the possibility of pot falling into the hands of adolescents, or what might happen if an impaired individual gets behind the wheel of a vehicle.
According to a new study published online in the American Journal of Public Health in November by a team of nine researchers, a surprising trend emerged in medical marijuana legal states.
After the team of researchers reviewed U.S. traffic fatalities between 1985 and 2014 using the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, the data showed that, on average, medical marijuana legal states had lower traffic fatality rates than non-medical marijuana legal states. This paralleled a 2013 study from three researchers that was published in the Journal of Law and Economics, which showed an 8% to 11% decline in traffic fatalities in the year immediately following the legalization of marijuana.
For instance, both California and New Mexico saw their traffic deaths fall by 16% and 17%, respectively, immediately following the passage of medical marijuana laws in the states. However, traffic deaths have gradually increased since this immediate drop.
It's also important to note that researchers are pretty clear on two things. First, marijuana does indeed impair drivers, but certain hypotheses suggest that marijuana users may be more "aware" of their impairment than drivers who've consumed too much alcohol. Another possibility is simply that drivers have completely substituted marijuana for alcohol and stayed off the roads.
Secondly, researchers are crystal clear that while the data demonstrates an association between medical marijuana legal states and reduced traffic deaths, it can't prove cause and effect. Further studies with more defined variables would be needed to do that.
originally posted by: Gatexan
I'm much more worried about the other drivers on the road after a few drinks , or the staggering amount of people driving right now on high doses of various opiates .
originally posted by: AgarthaSeed
a reply to: Krazysh0t
While this is awesome news, I see it being a double edged sword in some states. Mine in particular ( NY ) takes in ungodly amounts of $ from DWI's, and despite what they say, they don't want to see that number go down.
originally posted by: ketsuko
Since marijuana replaces your internal ambition and motivation, it's more likely that people stoned to theoint of impairment are just too stoned to be bothered with wanting to get in a car and go somewhere -- too much effort.
When examining 19 states that had medical marijuana laws on the books by 2014, researchers found that their average rate of traffic deaths fell 11 percent after the laws were enacted.
The seven states with death rate reductions were California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Arizona. Rhode Island  and Connecticut  saw increased traffic death rates.