Legalizing Medical Marijuana Linked To Lesser Drunk Driving, Reveals New Study

A new study has revealed that auto insurance premiums have lessened in those states, which have legalized the use of medical marijuana. The study adds to already existing data that changes in cannabis consumption rules brings down the instances of dangerous driving.

The study, which was published in the month of June in the journal Health Economics, studied insurance data from the year 2014 to 2019. The study revealed that insurance premiums dropped by about $22 per year on average after states legalized the use of marijuana. The authors of the study are of the opinion that there is some connection between the legalization of marijuana and lower instances of drunk driving in these states. The study authors think this happens due to a possible substitution, where-in more people shift from alcohol to cannabis.

A $22 premium reduction might not seem that big a decline, but the reason behind the decline is what is more important. Access to medical cannabis is linked to better road safety, which translates into high-cost savings for both- for those paying insurance premiums and if you look at the larger picture, for health-related expenditures related to auto accidents.

As per the study, "medical cannabis legalization has reduced auto insurance premiums by $1.5 billion in all states that have currently legalized, with the potential to reduce premiums by an additional $900 million if the remaining states were to legalize". This translates into a combined total of $2.4 billion in potential payment reductions for drivers under nationwide medical cannabis access.

"Because auto insurance premiums are directly tied to property damage and health outcomes, we find evidence of a positive social impact of medical cannabis on auto safety," the study added.

A lesser number of health expenditure auto claims has also led to around $820 million annually in cost savings in legal medical marijuana states. And there is also the potential of an additional $350 million in annual savings coming in if cannabis is legalized throughout the country.

What makes this study stand out is that it focuses on auto insurance trends, whereas most research looking into marijuana reform and road safety have looked at data on traffic fatalities. That, however, gives an incomplete picture as a small fraction of car accidents involved fatalities.

As per the study, "The existing literature misses over 99.5 percent of auto crashes. Auto insurers cover 67 percent of all medical and property damage from automobile accidents. Through this lens, we paint a more comprehensive picture."

The analysis, which was done based on zip code found that reductions in annual premium costs is "higher in areas directly exposed to a dispensary, indicating more access to cannabis drives the results."

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