Colorado Traffic Fatalities at Record Low Since Cannabis Legalization


Marijuana on the Roads: Part 3

A seemingly powerful argument against the legalization of marijuana has been how it will affect road safety. Prohibitionists argue that legalizing another intoxicant will automatically increase the number of intoxicated drivers on the roads.

Cannabis critics point to a study that concludes that fatal crashes involving someone under the influence of marijuana have tripled over the last 20 years. This easy to understand argument has swayed many people before; however, new data coming out of Colorado is contradicts these claims.

According to The Washington Post, since the legalization of marijuana in Colorado, the state’s fatal traffic collisions have fallen to near historic lows. In the first five months of 2014, traffic fatalities have fallen 8 percent. This is consistent with a study in 2011 which showed a decrease of traffic fatalities after the state legalized medical marijuana.

The only statistic that saw a rise was the number of traffic fatalities caused by not wearing a seatbelt, which still only accounted for 10 deaths. It seems not wearing a seatbelt is more dangerous than smoking marijuana.

If you’re confused as to how the number of fatal collisions involving cannabis users has tripled while fatal traffic collisions in Colorado have fallen, don’t feel bad; it’s just a matter of how you look at the data. Indeed, the proliferation of pot will likely see an increase of people in fatal accidents with cannabis in their system, but it’s not the whole story.

Testing the human body for cannabis is not like testing the body for alcohol. Alcohol quickly enters your body and then quickly exits. For example, if your blood alcohol level is a staggering 0.1, it will take roughly 6.5 hours for it to exit your body. Cannabis, on the other hand, takes much longer.

Currently, the only tests that can detect marijuana in a person’s body rely on the detection of marijuana metabolites. These metabolites take days to exit the system; and if you are a daily cannabis user, it can take over a month before your system is clean. This makes it impossible to determine how stoned a person may or may not be.

It is a given that marijuana legalization will lead to an increase of its use. If you take a sample of a large population, of course you will find more people with cannabis in their system. When the study in question saw a rise of traffic fatalities with people that had cannabis in their system, researchers had no way of knowing if the person was high at the time of the accident. Furthermore, statistics were skewed as the study does not differentiate between people with only marijuana in their system and people with both marijuana and alcohol in their system.

This recent set of data once again pokes a hole in a prohibitionist’s argument that marijuana is a dangerous scourge that will ruin America. Time and time again it is being proven that cannabis is far less dangerous than tobacco or alcohol.

When congress came together last month to study the risks of “drugged driving,” Florida Rep. John Mica had this to say about marijuana legalization: “We are going to have a lot more people stoned on the highway and there will be consequences.” Who knew the consequences Mica warned of would turn out to be lower traffic fatalities?

*Marijuana Investor News does not condone any form of intoxicated driving. Whether you’re drinking alcohol or enjoying cannabis, be smart; catch a cab, ride the bus or get a ride from a friend, do not get behind the wheel.


William Sumner, a freelance writer and marijuana journalist, was a staff writer for MJINews from May 2014 through February 2018. You can follow him on Twitter @W_Sumner.

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