As patient access to regulated medical marijuana dispensaries continues to expand, new opportunities emerge to evaluate the public safety impact of these programs. Recent research highlights how one common concern – traffic safety – appears to be unfounded:
States with medical-marijuana laws have fewer traffic fatalities than those without, especially among younger drivers, a new study has found.
You would think crash rates might be higher, supposing that more drivers are, too[…]
But, no. Researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health found an 11 percent reduction in traffic fatalities on average when examining places that have enacted medical-marijuana laws — 23 states and the District of Columbia. The presence of medical-marijuana dispensaries also correlated with fewer traffic fatalities, the study found. [Washington Post]
This finding may strike some as counterintuitive, but to patients and providers experienced with medical marijuana use, the result may not be so surprising. Patients frequently report to us that they’ve chosen cannabis as a treatment specifically because they find it less intoxicating and incapacitating than other commonly-prescribed medications. Just as medical marijuana states are experiencing comparatively lower rates of overdose deaths from prescription drugs, it makes sense that the benefits of access to dispensaries could be impacting highway safety as well.
The study’s author also speculates that the positive impact of dispensaries on traffic safety may result from reduced alcohol use in states where medical marijuana is legal and regulated. It’s an interesting hypothesis that could form the basis for further research.
Ultimately, it seems likely that these encouraging outcomes result from multiple factors that converge when access to medical marijuana is carefully regulated and controlled. In our experience serving patients who rely on cannabis for health and wellness, they are consistenly motivated by a desire to treat their conditions and live their lives in a thoughtful and responsible manner. Access to well-run dispensaries contributes to that goal and we’re pleased to see empirical data continuing to support our belief that this work produces far-reaching and strongly positive public health outcomes.