Tag Archives: Legalization

Traffic sign.

Cannabis legalization increases traffic fatalities — but mostly in neighboring, un-legalized states

New research from the Monash University looks at the effect cannabis legalization has on traffic fatalities.

Traffic sign.

Image via Pixabay.

Three US states have legalized recreational cannabis sales (RCS) so far: Colorado and Washington in 2015, followed by Oregon in 2015. But does the ol’ herb impact traffic fatalities? New research from the Monash University says yes — especially in areas bordering these states.

Cannabis tourism

“The effect of cannabis legalisation on traffic fatalities is a growing public health concern,” says Dr. Tyler Lane, lead author of the study.

“The results suggest that legalising the sale of cannabis for recreational use can lead to a temporary increase in traffic fatalities in legalising states. This spills over into neighbouring jurisdictions through cross-border sales, trafficking, or cannabis tourists driving back to their state of residence while impaired.”

The team calculated a baseline number of deaths resulted from traffic accidents in the three states and nine neighboring jurisdictions — Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah, British Columbia, Oregon, California, and Nevada — prior to legalization.

They compared this with figures of traffic fatalities recorded after legalization to get the number of additional deaths per month compared to states that had not changed cannabis laws. Traffic fatalities increased only temporarily, they report — this increase lasted for about one year following legalization. The study area sums up a population of roughly 27 million people, and saw an additional 170 deaths in the first six months following legalization, the team reports.

However, the team was also surprised to find that neighboring states and provinces saw a slightly larger increase in fatalities than the studied areas. This effect was more pronounced in population centers closest to the border of a legalizing state. The team believes this comes down to cannabis users driving interstate to make purchases before returning under the influence.

This ‘cannabis tourism’ has important implications for both legalizing states and their neighbors, the team explains. Furthermore, the results may be applicable elsewhere, too, as prohibitions against cannabis are lifted.

“Our findings suggest that policymakers should consult with neighbouring jurisdictions when liberalising cannabis policy to mitigate any deleterious effects,” says Dr. Lane.

She adds that these results stand in contrast to research on medicinal cannabis, which suggests it decreases traffic fatalities. One reason for the difference may be that medicinal users tend to substitute cannabis for other substances, including alcohol, which have a greater effect on impairment. Recreational users are less likely to substitute and more likely to combine alcohol and cannabis, which has a much bigger effect than either in isolation.

The paper “Traffic fatalities within US states that have legalized recreational cannabis sales and their neighbours” has been published in the journal Addiction.

The “war on drugs” has only harmed human rights and public health — not supply and demand

A new report questions the legitimacy of today’s “War on Drugs,” seeing as the five-decade long process has failed to reduce either the supply or demand for narcotics. The authors urge for ‘scientifically grounded’ policies to be implemented, including regulated markets for cannabis.

Image via cuetherant

US president Richard Nixon started/declared a war on drugs some five decades ago and you’d expect to see some results by now. In a way, we did — this trillion-dollar campaign has harmed public health, sentenced countless people to prison, and claimed the lives of thousands. At the same time, these anti-drug policies have had “no measurable impact on supply or use,” found a report commissioned by Johns Hopkins Ivy League University and The Lancet.

The paper compares this situation to that in countries such as Portugal and the Czech Republic that have opted for decriminalization of non-violent minor drug offenses with very positive results. These include “public health benefits, cost savings, lower incarceration [rates], and no significant increase in problematic drug use.” The data also shows that, around the world, the way drug laws are applied is very often “discriminatory against racial and ethnic minorities and women, and has undermined human rights”.

Oh and those sent to prison on minor drug charges? The paper singled their terms out as the “biggest contribution to higher rates of infection among drug users” with diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C. Let the implications of that finding sink in for a minute.

So on one hand we have an oppressive, obscenely expensive all-out “war” that doesn’t work and in fact promotes crime. On the other, US states like Colorado or Oregon with legal cannabis markets, who cash off big on the trade, see crime rates dropping like a stone. The authors rightfully see this as compelling evidence that governments which still practice very strict drug policies would benefit greatly from decriminalization efforts — regulated markets for cannabis, for example.

Most national drug laws revolve around prohibition and punishment, said Chris Beyrer, from Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health.

“[But these] policies [are] based on ideas about drug use and dependence that are not scientifically grounded,” he added.

“The global ‘war on drugs’ has harmed public health, human rights and development. It’s time for us to rethink our approach to global drug policies, and put scientific evidence and public health at the heart of drug policy discussions.”

The full report, titled “Public Health and International Drug Policy” can be read here.