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Study: Legalizing Marijuana Reduces Alcohol Consumption and Traffic Deaths

By Safer Choice

"Groundbreaking" CU Denver research finds medical marijuana laws result in a nearly 5% reduction in beer sales and 9% drop in alcohol-related traffic deaths

DENVER -- A study released today by the University of Colorado Denver shows that the legalization of medical marijuana significantly reduces alcohol consumption and, as a result, alcohol-related traffic deaths.

The study, hailed as "groundbreaking" by the University, is the first to examine the effect of legalizing medical marijuana on the prevalence of traffic fatalities. Researchers analyzed traffic fatalities nationwide, and in those states that have legalized medical marijuana they found that alcohol consumption went down among those 20 to 29 years old, resulting in fewer deaths on the road.

The study noted past research that suggests drivers under the influence of alcohol are far more reckless than drivers under the influence of marijuana.  Whereas those using alcohol drive faster, take more risks, and underestimate their level of impairment, those using marijuana drive slower, avoid risks, and recognize when they are too impaired to drive.

"Every objective study on marijuana has concluded that it is far safer than alcohol for the user and society," said Mason Tvert, executive director of Safer Alternative For Enjoyable Recreation (SAFER) and coauthor of the book, Marijuana is Safer: So why are we driving people to drink? (Chelsea Green, 2009).  "It should come as little surprise that when we allow adults to make the safer choice to use marijuana it results in less drinking and fewer alcohol-related problems."

Tvert coordinated the successful ballot initiatives in Denver that made it the first city in the nation to remove all penalties for adult possession (2005), and designated possession as its lowest law enforcement priority (2007). He is currently one of two formal proponents of a 2012 statewide initiative campaign to make marijuana legal in Colorado and regulate it like alcohol. 

"If allowing the legal use of marijuana for medical purposes reduces alcohol consumption and traffic deaths, making it legal for could reduce it dramatically," Tvert said.  "It's time for our government to stop driving people to drink -- and drink and drive -- and start allowing them to make the rational, safer choice to use marijuana, if that is what they prefer."The study is entitled, "Medical Marijuana Laws, Traffic Fatalities, and Alcohol Consumption." It can be found at:

The University of Colorado Denver offers more than 120 degrees and programs in 13 schools and colleges and serves more than 28,000 students. CU Denver is located on the Denver Campus and the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, Colo.


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