While data regarding marijuana’s effect on driving has been analyzed, results haven’t been conclusive. But now a new study claims to have found a link between legal marijuana and car crashes.
Published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, researchers saw an uptick of 6% in states with legal marijuana. States that hadn’t legalized marijuana didn’t see an uptick in car accidents.
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The study’s data shows that fatal car crashes experienced an increase of 2%, making researchers believe that marijuana may cause more accidents but doesn’t make for a deadlier driving environment. They theorize that this is due to marijuana’s effect of slowing down people’s reaction time, something that may cause them to drive more slowly and thus be involved in accidents that are less deadly.
In a press release, lead researcher Charles Farmer argued that while legalizing marijuana provided some benefits, it also came with a cost. “Legalization removes the stigma of marijuana use, while the onset of retail sales merely increases access,” he said. “But access to marijuana isn’t difficult, even in places without retail sales. Users who previously avoided driving high may feel that it’s okay after legalization.”
Still, with the data that’s available, researchers can’t prove that marijuana consumption causes more car accidents. “Studies looking for a direct causal link between marijuana use and crash risk have been inconclusive,” says the study’s lead author. “Unlike alcohol, there is no good objective measure of just how impaired a marijuana user has become. Until we can accurately measure marijuana impairment, we won’t be able to link it to crash risk.”
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Over the years, different companies have tried to come up with an accurate technology that measures cannabis impairment. There hasn’t been any luck yet, with marijuana affecting people in vastly different ways than alcohol, and providing for a highly individualized experience. While two people may consume the same amount of cannabis, their bodies could experience vastly different reactions.