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Study: Medical Marijuana Laws Lead To Decrease In Alcohol-Related Deaths

The results of a new study indicate that the passage of medical marijuana laws is associated with a decrease in the public’s consumption of alcohol and fewer alcohol-related traffic fatalities.

Investigators at Montana State University, the University of Oregon and the University of Colorado looked at data on alcohol consumption and traffic fatality rates for the years 1990 to 2010. Their findings were published in the Journal of Law and Economics, NORML reported.

“Using individual-level data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System [BRFSS] … we find that MMLs [medical marijuana laws] are associated with decreases in the probability of [an individual] having consumed alcohol in the past month, binge drinking and the number of drinks consumed,” wrote the autors of the study.

The researches reached the conclusion that since the public was drinking less alcohol, it was logical that there would be a decrease in the number of alcohol-related traffic fatalities.

“Using data from FARS [federal Fatality Analysis Reporting System] for the period 1990-2010, we find that traffic fatalities fall by 8-11 percent the first full year after legalization … Why does legalizing medical marijuana reduce traffic fatalities?" they wrote. "Alcohol consumption appears to play a key role. The legalization of medical marijuana is associated with a 7.2 percent decrease in traffic fatalities in which there was no reported alcohol involvement, but this estimate is not statistically significant at conventional levels.

In comparison, the legalization of medical marijuana is associated with a 13.2 percent decrease in fatalities in which at least one driver involved had a positive BAC level. The negative relationship between the legalization of medical marijuana and traffic fatalities involving alcohol lends support to the hypothesis that marijuana and alcohol are substitutes.”

The authors added: “We conclude that alcohol is the likely mechanism through which the legalization of medical marijuana reduces traffic fatalities. However, this conclusion does not necessarily imply that driving under the influence of marijuana is safer than driving under the influence of alcohol. Alcohol is often consumed in restaurants and bars, while many states prohibit the use of medical marijuana in public. If marijuana consumption typically takes place at home or other private locations, then legalization could reduce traffic fatalities simply because marijuana users are less likely to drive while impaired.”

Sources: NORML, The Weed Blog


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