We cannabis advocates still have so much work to do to dispel the many myths disparaging medical cannabis usage. As many of you know, cannabis was legal until Harry J. Anslinger, the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, made it his mission to demonize it. As a racist who hated Mexicans, he started referring to it as Marihuana. He knew it was not harmful but he managed to convince people it was a very dangerous drug. By 1937, it was made federally illegal. This status remains today, although the majority of Americans are in favor of its use.
One such myth is that traffic deaths will rise in a state where medical cannabis is legalized. The opposite is actually true, according to two studies. Immediately after the legalization of medical cannabis, traffic fatality rates declined. The data gathered from the 1985–2014 Fatality Analysis Reporting System substantiated this claim, particularly for those aged 15 to 24 and 25 to 44 years. There were additional yearly gradual reductions in those aged 25 to 44 years. A team of researchers from Columbia University in New York published their findings in the American Journal of Public Health.
Another 2013 study from three researchers, published in the Journal of Law and Economics, showed an 8% to 11% decline in traffic fatalities in the year immediately following the legalization of medical cannabis. Despite their findings, researchers are not condoning driving under the influence of cannabis.
The surprising reasons for their findings are as follows; medical cannabis users may be more aware of their impairment when medicating and are more cautious drivers. I had first hand experience with this many, many years ago. However, I will tell you that these days, I NEVER DRIVE IMPAIRED. Another reason may be that instead of drinking alcohol in bars, medical cannabis users prefer to stay home and medicate. Fewer impaired people on the roads translates into fewer possible accidents. The last reason may be the result of more police presence directly after medical cannabis legalization. This acts to keep users off the roads.
It is important to note that in a few states, there was a gradual increase in traffic deaths a year after medical cannabis legalization. As more and more states continue to legalize medical cannabis, researchers will continue to study traffic fatality data.