A new study has determined that people in states where cannabis is legal are less likely to drive while stoned than people in states where weed remains criminalized.
The study, published this month in the journal Preventive Medicine Reports, analyzed self-reported data from a national survey on cannabis use. Respondents in states where cannabis has been legalized for medical or recreational use said they were less likely to get behind the wheel within three hours of consuming the substance than those in states where pot is legally prohibited.
The results appear to contradict claims that decriminalizing weed will lead to upswings in impaired driving, a criticism sometimes voiced by anti-reform lawmakers.
The study considered Texas a state where cannabis is illegal since researchers collected their survey data between August 2016 and May 2017, a time before the legislature expanded its medical marijuana program to include more than a narrow range of ailments.
Researchers said the results suggest that states with legalized cannabis have done a better job educating residents about potential dangers of driving while impaired. Labeling requirements on legal cannabis also may help by providing warnings that deter people from getting behind the wheel.
“In legal states, cannabis users may receive more information about the risks of cannabis use from sources like physicians who issue medical cannabis cards or dispensary staff than users living in neither states,” the study’s authors wrote.
One exception in the findings was that medical cannabis patients who report frequent use had driving behavior on par with pot users in states where pot is illegal.
The study is here, and it’s too wonky for me to try to evaluate. It is just one study, and it is of self-reported behavior, though as they note in the study that has statistical validity. But it’s still just one study, and there’s clearly a lot of room for more analysis. It’s a starting point for the inevitable claims that legalizing pot will unleash countless stoned drivers on the roads.