What Happens to Traffic Deaths When Marijuana is Legalized? Interview with:
Russell Kamer, MD

Department of Medicine, New York Medical College, Valhalla
15 North Broadway, Suite E
White Plains, NY 10601 New York What is the background for this study?

"marijuana apocalypse - weed is a stimulant !" by Blind Nomad is licensed under CC BY 2.0Response: It is well known that marijuana usage impairs driving ability, yet the early studies of the effects of recreational marijuana legalization on traffic fatalities were inconclusive. What are the main findings?

Response: By analyzing data over a longer time period, we found that the legalization of recreational marijuana increased traffic deaths in the first four states to legalize. Traffic fatalities increased about 20% in those states. If we apply these numbers to the nation as a whole, nationwide legalization would be associated with about 7,000 excess traffic fatalities each year. What should readers take away from your report?

traffic accidentsResponse: Legislators in states considering legal commercial sales of marijuana should take the likelihood of increased deaths into consideration when drafting new laws. States that have already legalized should take steps to mitigate the dangers of impaired driving. There has been much progress in preventing drunk driving.

From an early age, new drivers are taught not to drink and drive. On the other hand, few steps are taken to warn against driving while under the influence of marijuana. In fact, misinformation that marijuana does not affect driving ability is widespread.


Kamer RS, Warshafsky S, Kamer GC. Change in Traffic Fatality Rates in the First 4 States to Legalize Recreational Marijuana. JAMA Intern Med. Published online June 22, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2020.1769

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Last Updated on June 22, 2020 by Marie Benz MD FAAD