New Study: Alcohol & Weed: Rising Vehicle Fatalities in Legalized Cannabis States Raise Questions.

Clarence Walker
Green Marijuana PlantPhoto byfree image: pixabay

New Study: Alcohol & Weed: Rising Vehicle Fatalities in Legalize Cannabis States Raise Questions

By Clarence Walker Jr.

As the legalization of ‘marijuana aka cannabis’ saturates every corner of this society the green leafy substance has finally become the accepted choice of legal narcotic use in mainstream America, but a new study recently discovered how recreational cannabis use is causing a deadly impact on public road safety. New research conducted by the Boston Medical Center Team at Boston University, and the University of Victoria indicates that between 2000 and 2018, that fatal marijuana-related crash victims had a 50 percent higher chance of having alcohol in their systems, simultaneously, which means the percentage of vehicle collisions involving both marijuana and alcohol, have more than doubled.

Advocates fought a long battle to legalize cannabis because they staunchly believed that if people were allowed to use the drug openly that it would eliminate the use of other substances, like alcohol, for example.

The Boston Medical Team disagrees.

Marijuana and Alcohol Combined

“There has been progress in reducing deaths from alcohol-impaired driving, but our study suggests that cannabis involvement might be undercutting these public health efforts,” said senior author Timothy Naimi. Naimi is an MD, MPH, and adjunct professor at Boston University Schools of Medicine and Public Health. A man with incomparable prestige, Naimi is also the director of the Canadian Institute of Substance Use Research.

At least 35 states including the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical use, 16 of those states allow adults to legally use the substance for recreational use as of April 2021. That particular number may continue to rise as more Americans are more tolerant of legalizing marijuana across the nation.

Cannabis and Alcohol-related Vehicle Fatality Deaths

Researchers analyzed 19 years of data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, a national database of fatal vehicle collisions on public roads, which revealed:

  • Nearly 40 percent of fatal vehicle deaths in the United States are alcohol-related, and 30 percent of deaths involve alcohol above the legal limit for driving.
  • The percentage of auto crash deaths related to cannabis use more than doubled from 9.0 percent in 2000 to 21.5 percent in 2018.
  • And the percentage of deaths involving cannabis and alcohol also more than doubled from 4.8 percent to 10.3 percent. Cannabis triggered a risk factor for alcohol co-involvement, even at levels below the legal limit.
  • The study further showed how cannabis-involved vehicle collisions are more likely to involve the deaths of passengers including individuals younger than 35 compared to fatal auto collisions unrelated to cannabis.

Drugged on Marijuana While Driving

Despite these astounding results, the authors of the important studies indicated that testing for marijuana intoxication still remains an imprecise science thereby making it more difficult for officials to determine how long it’d been since drivers used marijuana prior to driving on the road and further, how much of a role the marijuana played in the fatal accident.

Fact-based studies published in the American Journal of Public Health show conclusive results that suggest as states have loosened cannabis policies, cannabis and alcohol have constantly been used together by drivers.

Although auto collision alcohol deaths have remained steady over the last two decades, the proportion of the deaths, when other substances are involved, particularly cannabis, increased exponentially. Surprisingly, scant attention has been given to the relationship between alcohol and cannabis use. At first, when states gradually legalized marijuana, advocates insisted most likely the use of weed would substitute for heavy alcohol consumption.

However, the Boston study suggests the opposite, that cannabis and alcohol are increasingly being used simultaneously when impaired drivers are on the road, and cannabis increases the chance of alcohol use in fatal vehicular crashes.
Alcoholic Drinking While DrivingPhoto byfree image: pixabay
Minus the Alcohol, New Study Shows Marijuana, Might Be Causing a Rise in Auto Fatalities Alone
"Marijuana, like alcohol, and just about every other drug, changes how you feel and how you behave. That's the purpose of a drug," said lead researcher Charles Farmer, in a U.S. News & World Report. Farmer is the vice president for research and statistical services at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. To began the study, Farmer and his top-notch team examined five states that legalized recreational marijuana for people 21 and older(the states are Washington, Colorado, California, Oregon and Nevada). Farmer compared the aforementioned states with states that doesn't legalize marijuana states like Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. Farmer's exhaustive study discovered that after legalization, and before retail marijuana sales began, the rate of vehicle collisions with injuries shot up nearly 7 percent. Then, finally, after sales began, the collision rate dipped to less than 1 percent. But the rate of fatal collisions increased 2 percent before and after retail sales started. Farmer admits he's not convinced marijuana legislation is the only cause of rising collision rates. Furthermore, he continued, the study cannot prove a direct cause-and-effect relationship.
Alex Otte, national president of MADD(Mothers Against Drunk Driving), also said in U.S. News, "We know that driving impaired by any drug, alcohol, marijuana or otherwise is 100 percent preventable. How? It's not an accident. It's not a mistake. It's a choice."
Epidemiologist Marlene Lira concludes her findings related to cannabis effects upon drivers.


“Our testing methods for cannabis remain suboptimal and individuals can test positive for cannabis weeks after they have consumed it,” says lead author Marlene Lira, MPH, an epidemiologist at Boston Medical Center. “However, we can say that fatalities from crashes involving cannabis are more likely to have also involved alcohol, even if we don’t know the exact level of cannabis.”

In 2018, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) began workgroups to mitigate the harms of drug-impaired driving during the overdose epidemic and cannabis legalization. NHTSA also commissioned the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to study alcohol-impaired driving. The report included the recommendation to reduce the legal alcohol limit to 0.05 percent, among other interventions. This study underscores that now, more than ever, these efforts are still needed.

“The bottom line is that we have a lot of work to do to reduce deaths and harms from impaired driving from alcohol, cannabis, and other substances,” said Lira.

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I am a freelance news reporter, investigative journalist, true crime writer and historical researcher. I write about community news, crime, business, real estate, human interest, entertainment & politics. Expect to get the stories that matters most.

Houston, TX

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